The Olympic buildings as a new typology for architects and engineers

Manuel Cresciani

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Integration between Architecture and Engineering is one of the cardinal elements of the IASS activities and is generally perceived either as a ‘starting point’, being a quality of the ancient Master Builders of Medieval and Renaissance times or as a ‘final destination’ to be eventually reached by the two disciplines in times to come. In both cases, such integration seems absent in contemporary buildings. In contrast, there has been in the recent past, also in the present and will be forthcoming in the future, particular occasions in which such a ‘fusion’ was not just a possible solution but consistent practice, a built fact. These special occasions are certainly represented by the buildings for the Olympic Games. The ‘Olympic Buildings’ are designed to represent both an architectural and an engineering challenge to the existing world of construction. They aspire to become icons of a particular time and to set a new standard in terms of building technologies/materials. It is not a coincidence that some of the most influential designers of our times linked their names to the Olympic Games. Indeed, figures like Pier Luigi Nervi (Rome 1960), Yoshikatsu Tsuboi (Tokyo 1964), Frei Otto (Munich 1972) and more recently, Mamoru Kawaguchi (Barcelona 1992) and Santiago Calatrava (Athens 2004) designed some of their masterpieces for such events. This paper, which is an outcome of a broader, international and in-progress research on this topic, will, through a re-reading of some the most significant post-war editions of the Olympiads, illustrates the historical progress of so-called ‘Structural Design’. Considering in depth the casestudy of Rome 1960 as a starting point, and comparing it with buildings designed for other Olympiads, it became apparent that all of the works examined in this article, in spite of their international success, managed to keep what can be defined as a ‘Regional character’, distinctive of a particular culture in terms of architectonic language and technological resources. This characteristic seems to be lost in the most recent editions of the Games (Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008) and represents one of the challenges to the next Olympic cities, starting with London 2012.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventInternational Association for Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS) Symposium 2008 - Acapulco, Mexico
Duration: 1 Jan 2008 → …


ConferenceInternational Association for Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS) Symposium 2008
Period1/01/08 → …
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