A Visit to London's Inspiring Olympic Velodrome

a visit to London's olympic velodromeBonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

London's new Olympic Velodrome has been one of the most talked about and lauded of all the new buildings. Having visited it (to see the UCI Track Cycling World Cup competition), we can attest: it's definitely got the wow! factor. With its curvy and sinuously shaped form and wood-panelled exterior, it has an honesty and clarity of intention.

Designed by Hopkins Architects,the outside is clad in 5,000 M2 of Western Red Cedar timber to draw a parallel with the timber track inside the venue. The double-curving roof structure was designed to reflect the shape of the cycling track.

a visit to London's olympic velodromeBonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

Natural ventilation is achieved through openings in the external timber cladding of the venue resulting in substantial carbon emission reductions. Air flows across the 6,000 stands of seats and through the top, being replaced by cool, fresh air from below.

Theoretically that sounds great, but the place felt pretty warm after an hour or two of sitting with 5,999 people. Come summer this will definitely be an issue. Of course, now is the time to work out all the wrinkles, so hopefully this problem will be solved.

The use of abundant daylight through strategically positioned rooflights reduces need for artificial lighting.

a visit to London's olympic velodromeBonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

The Velodrome has been designed with the aim of creating the world’s fastest cycling track by tailoring its shape and angles to create record-breaking conditions. Renowned track designer Ron Webb oversaw the design and installation of the 2012 track having previously worked on the Sydney and Athens Velodromes.

a visit to London's olympic velodromeBonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

The interior has seating all the way round the track to create the best possible views for the crowds. In fact the sensation of peering over the railing at the track is almost like being on a ship and leaning over to watch the fish. The curves rise and fall and the cyclists whiz by; it's all very exciting.

The British deemed it to be the best cycling track ever and they have been doing very well, with two golds and a pair of new world records. To everyone's surprise, the Canadians led the way.

a visit to London's olympic velodromeBonnie Alter/CC BY 2.0

A team of 26 specialist carpenters installed the track over a period of 8 weeks. 56km of surface timber from a sustainably-sourced Siberian pine was laid to form the track surface, fixed into place with more than 300,000 nails.

The track is delicate. After one serious clash of bicycles the race was stopped and two men ran out to replace bits of wood that had become unstuck. Then they sanded the repairs, swept away the sawdust, and the race started again after a 10 minute break.

The building will have a lasting legacy. After the Games, a road cycle circuit and mountain bike course and reconfigured BMX circuit will be added to the Velodrome to create the Lee Valley VeloPark, combining cycling facilities across all disciplines in one cycling 'hub'. It will be owned and operated by Lee Valley Regional Park Authority.

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