While every four years the Summer Olympics brings attention to the host city and the architecture built to serve the games and the athletes, the impact of the Olympics is geographically much larger.
Taking into account the trials that determine which athletes are sent to compete is one such reach. A good examples of that is Nike Camp Victory, a series of temporary pavilions set up for Olympic trials in the Pacific Northwest. Skylab Architecture answered some questions about the project which stood for two weeks this summer.
Can you describe your design process for the building?
The Nike Olympic Trials creative vision was rooted in collaboration. When Skylab Architecture was commissioned as the architect for the Nike Olympic Trials, Hush Studios was also selected as the digital media partner allowing for each to work closely in parallel. Early concepts focused on ideas and testing how to visualize running. Three-dimensional modeling and motion graphics allowed for a synthesis of the built structure, media, and product displays to be realized through an iterative process.
Skylab explored the posture of speed through digital modeling and integration of media with Hush resulting in iconic structures and an immersive environment. We worked closely with FTL Engineering Studio to define the structural system, which led to the definition of the order of pavilions and tracks. Graphic design firm Big Giant joined the team to develop the design approach for integrated graphics and product display.
How does the completed building compare to the project as designed? Were there any dramatic changes between the two and/or lessons learned during construction?
The pavilions and track were designed to represent the kinetic energy of running. Like a sprinter coming out of the starting blocks, the pavilions lean and cantilever stretching to their structural physical boundaries. We envisioned a designed network of pavilions and tracks that had potential to ship to multiple sites. Each site could be configured based on site specific forces to form a track pattern with the pavilions activating the central space. Over the course of the design four pavilions were reduced to three, simplifying the product displays. Using the system, we redefined a new spatial dynamic between the structures maintaining a balance of tension and compression in the event space. There was one other unique requirement which was to leave no trace on the existing soccer field after the event so the fine balance of the weight of structures was critical. At the end the event after the structures were disassembled, regular soccer games were back in full force on the same field with no trace of the event.
How does the building compare to other projects in your office, be it the same or other building types?
Making an interactive running experience was at the heart of the vision to demonstrate how fast is fast at the Nike Olympic Trials. The mission of the project was rooted in speed. All Skylab projects involve creative insight and expertise of a specialized team to focus the vision. We are currently working with a team on a project for the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services that is building a facility to demonstrate sustainability related to engineering, wastewater, and a 100 year building approach. The concepts behind the design for both of these projects carry equal weight as they reflect core principles: for Nike it was about an experience of a hyper-light culture of speed and for the City of Portland, the design will demonstrate sustainability principles for a facility processing wastewater.
How does the building relate to contemporary architectural trends, be it sustainability, technology, etc.?
Digital programming of spaces often comes in after the architecture has been defined. In the case of the Nike Camp Victory project, the design team developed digital and physical experiences simultaneously to create a project that embraces technology as a way to establish a connection between people and their surroundings. The geometry of the structural frame and the patterns of fabrication for the fabric skin were deliberate, creating pavilions engineered for maximum material efficiency to embody the spirit of Nike’s version of Camp Victory for the 2012 Olympic Trials. The tensile integrity of the Flywire pattern, the dynamic qualities of the Lunarion foam and other high-performance fabrics are integral to some of Nike’s product innovations, and we responded to the use of cutting-edge technology with the material choices for the pavilions. Taking cues from engineered sails used in boat racing, where efficiency of both material and form drive performance, we skinned the pavilions in a fabric with high tensile strength that expressed hyper-lightness and performance. The membrane enclosure is simultaneously transparent and reflective: transparent to reveal the lightweight steel structure, and reflective to allow the pavilions themselves to transform under changing lighting conditions and viewing angles.