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Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park, London, UK

Issue 68 Aug / Sep 2012 : Architecture : Stadium

LIGHTING DESIGN: Happold Lighting ARCHITECT: Populous (formerly HOK Sport)

Bound by two waterways, the Olympic Stadium sits on its own island within the Olympic Park. Far from being a fortress of sport, the venue offers unprecedented openness and ease of access, a consequence of the design team’s committment to adaptability and long term legacy.

Pic: Pic: London 2012 / Populous

For many, the Birds Nest of the Beijing Olympics became the symbol of the 2008 Games. Successful as a piece of structural iconography, it was big, bold and impressively of the moment. It was clear when planning for 2012, however, that any attempt to match this show of Chinese might would be totally inappropriate. From the outset, the London games took an entirely different approach. The focus was on a smarter games, one built around principles of longevity and sustainability with ‘legacy’ woven in as part of the narrative – delivered with the style and panache appropriate of a global event.

In 2008 a consortium of several companies was established by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and tasked with creating a considered design for the main stadium that would be built on the Olympic Park. ‘Team Stadium’ was headed by Sir Robert McAlpine as design and build contractor, with Populous (formerly HOK Sport) as Architect, HED as Landscape architect and Buro Happold as engineers, with specialist illumination by Happold Lighting.

Their solution was to create a structure that used far less construction material (particularly steel) than the Beijing , Athens or Sydney stadiums. It was devised to be built in two tiers, with an upper 55,000 seat stand that could be demounted after the games to leave the 25,000 seat lower layer when the site entered ‘legacy mode’. One consequence of this approach was a relatively low roof height. This meant the team had to develop a method of placing light fixtures in a position that would allow effective illumination of the Field of Play but without causing excessive glare to the players, officials, spectators or cameras.

Their answer was to create fourteen A-frame lighting towers that provide the necessary flexibility to aim light across the infield without requiring excessive tilt angles, thus reducing glare and complying with International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) and International Commission on Illumination (CIE) guidelines.

The towers have walkways integrated at each level to permit easy access for re-lamping and aiming (as requested by the broadcast team). They are also designed to be fully fitted before being lifted into place. A soft focus was carried out at ground level – based on the lighting calculations provided – and then final aiming was refined once all equipment was securely fixed in place. Laser sights can be applied so that aiming can occur when the luminaries are off. Access for re-lamping is via the rear of the fixtures, avoiding the need to re-aim each time.

The lighting design has been developed as a series of overlapping layers that can be switched in stages to provide similar coverage, but with reduced lighting levels in each mode. The luminaires used have a high efficacy (in excess of 100 l/W) and there is an option to re-use and re-aim existing luminaires to provide a multi-use venue post games.
The original scheme was devised long before the event broadcasters had been identified, but the flexibility of the system allowed aiming to be modified to suit broadcast requirements. This included enhancing the contrast between the spectators and field of play and coordinating the luminaires across different phases to ensure consistent imagery where super slow motion cameras were used.

The main consideration for HDTV purposes was the balancing of horizontal and vertical lighting levels to bring them within a specific contrast ratio. Care was also taken to ensure the lighting levels and uniformity criteria were achieved for both fixed and moving camera positions. The floodlights contain quartz metal halide source lamps with rotationally symmetrical optics. These provide a CRI of over 90 and colour temperature of 5600K.

Exterior and approach lighting
Because of the stadium’s island location access is via a series of bridges that link to the rest of the park on all sides. The scale of lighting equipment decreases as visitors approach the stadium structure, maintaining a pedestrian scale and reinforcing the hierarchy of the venue when viewed from a distance. The concourse is illuminated from an array of column-mounted lighting systems, spaced on an even elliptical grid which spans the geometric form of Stadium island.
Each lighting system consists of indirect projectors that emit focused beams of light on to high efficiency reflectors. The light is asymmetrically dispersed by a deflection reflector back into the area below. Every column is a uniform, diffuse light source that minimises glare. A shield and lens system also reduces light spill from these fittings. Each concourse lighting assembly contains two pairs of luminaires, which can be independently controlled to vary lighting levels. This not only minimises energy use but also lets the system respond to differing operational requirements.

All luminaires throughout the Stadium and adjacent areas use efficient lamps, optics and control systems to ensure that the lighting systems do not overlight or spill light beyond the areas to be illuminated.
The design was developed in such a way that certain elements of the stadium could be dismantled post-games and an array of different venue configurations provided. Design options have been developed to re-use the original lighting equipment in different ways in order to provide the lighting required.

Thanks to the close cooperation of Team Stadium – working together in the same shared office building and in a shared site compound - the venue achieved the honour of being the very first Olympic Stadium to be delivered on time and on budget.


Olympic Stadium, Olympic Park, London, UK
Client: Olympic Delivery Authority
Design & Build Contractor: Sir Robert McAlpine
Architect: Populous (formerly HOK Sport)
Engineers: Buro Happold
Lighting Design: Happold Lighting



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