Key points – Stadium Australia

– Four Boeing 747s could fit wingtip to wingtip under the span of the main arch.
– It took 18,000 concrete trucks to deliver all the concrete required for the stadium superstructure.
– A total of 550,000 cubic metres of soil were moved, involving 91,500 trucks
– Five drilling rigs sank the 1,800 piles up to 19 metres in depth into shale bedrock to provide a firm foundation for the stadium.
– Up to 30 cranes with capacities ranging from five tonnes to 250 tonnes were used.
– The Lampson LTL 2600 crane that lifted the main arch into position is the largest mobile crane in Australia and one of the largest in the world.

The challenges presented by the XXVII Olympiad have been enormous, and especially so for the architects and engineers of Homebush Bay, the focus of the action during the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The 760-hectare site presented architects with a blank slate – and a unique opportunity to reinvigorate degraded land – yet the design requirements were formidable. This is to be the biggest Olympics ever, involving more events, more athletes, more participating nations and more spectators than ever before.

It will also be the first time that so many events have been concentrated in a single venue, presenting unique problems of access and movement for vast crowds. Some of the sporting arenas have required in-built elasticity, allowing them to expand to handle the vast influx during the Games, and then contract to allow cost-effective operation for a smaller, long-term audience.

From its inception, the Olympic Coordination Authority, the body established to supervise the development of Homebush Bay, committed itself to an ecologically sustainable project. Enormous structures that minimised their energy consumption through the optimal use of natural light and ventilation and which used recycled water called for novel solutions from architects and engineers.

Finally, the vast expense involved in the construction of Homebush Bay made it imperative that the site and all its facilities maintain their functionality for many decades beyond the 2000 Olympics.

Now, as the opening ceremony of the XXVII Olympiad nears, the success of its designers is evident to everyone who visits Homebush Bay. It is a tribute to their talents and energy that the main site for the Games has become a showcase of Australian architectural and engineering expertise.

Sydney International Aquatic Centre

One of the first facilities to be completed was the Sydney International Aquatic Centre. Described by IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch as ‘the best swimming pool I have seen in my life’, this magnificent complex has proved a hit with more than six million visitors since it opened in October 1994.

Under a wide-span roof that allows unobstructed viewing for 4,400 spectators, the complex consists of a 10-lane, 50-metre competition pool, a 33 x 25 metre pool for water polo and diving events, an eight-lane 50-metre pool with the world’s largest moveable underwater floor, a water slide, whirlpool, children’s pools, spa, sauna and steam rooms.

Much of the facility has been built below the level of its surroundings, allowing the low dome that forms the roof to harmonise with the undulating hills of the Homebush site. Natural light streams in through transparent roof panels, creating a dappled effect on the water.

The success of the facility has been underlined by the way in which Sydneysiders have embraced the facility. On any day of the week, the centre is busy with school groups, aerobic classes, athletes in training, families and fitness addicts. It has also been extensively tested in a number of world-class events, including the 1999 Pan-Pacific Swimming Championships.

In May, the Aquatic Centre hosted the national trials in preparation of the final selection for Australia’s swimming squad. During the course of the trials, several world records tumbled – including the 200-metre women’s butterfly, set 26 years previously and broken by Australia’s Susie O’Neill on the night of May 17.

Stadium Australia

Centrepiece of the Homebush Bay site is Stadium Australia, a dramatic, gleaming sporting arena. The stadium will host both the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as all the major track and field events. The 110,000-spectator stadium is the largest ever built for Olympic Games, with a capacity for 9,000 more seats than the next largest, the stadium of the Los Angeles Olympics.

Viewed from the outside, the stadium rises in a hyperbolic curve, resembling the two halves of an opened seashell. The roof, which covers about 80 per cent of the seating, is supported by two curved steel trusses, each anchored in six-storey-high triangular concrete thrust blocks. The roof is covered in translucent polycarbonate sheeting in four different thicknesses, which filters out the sun’s rays while also minimising strong contrast on the pitch.

The dimensions of the stadium give a hint of its breathtaking scale: the stadium used 90,000 cubic metres of concrete and 12,000 tonnes of structural steel, the legs of the main arch are anchored 296 metres apart and the roof weighs 4,100 tonnes.

Yet as well as its sheer scale, the stadium breaks new ground for efficiency. Access to the stadium is primarily via broad circular ramps located inside towers at its four corners, facilitating the easy and effective flow of spectators. The relatively steep pitch of the seating allows even spectators in the uppermost seats a superb view of events on the field of play, unimpeded by supporting columns.

Together with the other design constraints, an energy-efficient construction was imperative. Passive ventilation minimises the stadium’s airconditioning requirements, the effective use and channelling of natural light has reduced the need for artificial lightning, and all rainwater is collected from the stadium roof and stored in four large tanks for irrigation of the field. All the building materials have been checked to determine their environmental impacts.

When the A$690 million stadium welcomed the public for the first time on February 21, 1999 – two-and-a-half years after construction began – the reaction was unanimous. ‘It’s great. The size of the place is just amazing. I’ve never seen anything so big,’ was a remark typical of local visitors. The arbiters of architectural excellence were similarly impressed. The dean of the Sydney College of the Arts, Professor Richard Dunn, praised the stadium’s ‘heroic nature and coherence’.

When the Olympic and Paralympic Games are over, the temporary stands on the north and south ends will be removed, and the seating capacity will be reconfigured to 80,000 to allow for cost-effective management of the facility. As well as major sporting events, the stadium has already hosted a number of cultural events such as opera and rock concerts. Sydney will have a sporting facility to treasure for generations to come.

Sydney SuperDome

Australia’s largest indoor stadium, the $197 million SuperDome, will host basketball and artistic gymnastics during the Olympics. Supported by cable stays that are suspended from steel masts rising from the periphery of the SuperDome, the roof allows maximum penetration of natural light within an enclosed environment.

Other environmental features include a dual water system that maximises use of recycled water, stormwater collection and re-use, low-power fittings to reduce energy consumption and micro-climate airconditioning that directs the flow of air to occupied areas only when the SuperDome is used by small audiences. On the roof, the largest rooftop solar power plant on earth will feed sun-generated electricity into the power grid. The 44 x 77-metre floor is vast by the standards of indoor stadiums, allowing the 20,000-seat venue to adapt to a wide range of activities.

Minor masterworks

As well as the giant stadiums that dominate the landscape at Homebush Bay, architects have created a number of small gems.

Designed by architect Peter Stutchbury and landscape architect Phoebe Pape, the $3 million International Archery Park is small by the standards of the Olympic venues, yet it has won high praise. According to Professor Leon van Schaik, dean of the constructed environment at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, ‘it’s economical, graceful and witty, with the twist in it which mimics the way arrows move towards targets. It has lightness and play’.

Enclosed by a roof supported on steel and concrete colonnades, the 100 x 10-metre pavilion of the International Archery Park is deceptive in its simplicity. The open, pivoting roof that shelters the archers’ shooting bays evokes the classic veranda of an Australian homestead . The roof feathers along its length, from 10o from horizontal at one end to 27.5o at the other, which channels the cooling breezes and makes maximum use of the light. Within the pavilion, nine identical modules house administrative offices, coaching facilities, canteen, change areas and toilet facilities.

While the angled roof is architecturally powerful, it does not provide weatherproofing within the modules. Mr Stutchbury chose translucent polycarbonate ceilings on top of steel security mesh, which lets in light without the need for windows. Simple finishes, such as recycled grey ironbark and steel, were chosen for their low-maintenance characteristics.

Just as important as the building was the landscaping, which makes extensive use of Australian grasses and tussock plants. ‘While the building is a rigid, formal; structure, the landscaping is informal and meandering, yet they complement each other,’ the architect says.

One of the most significant lessons that emerged from the Atlanta Olympics was the importance of an efficient transportation system. From the outset, it was decided that private vehicles would be banned from Homebush Bay during the Olympics, and an effective people mover was imperative. The brief for Homebush Bay’s railway station was simple but exacting: provide an aesthetically appealing facility that would integrate with the existing suburban rail network and be capable of handling a train every two minutes and a flow of about 500 people a minute, from children to the elderly.

Since the station is the first view that many Olympic spectators will have of the Homebush Bay site, the first impression was crucial. ‘We wanted a structure that was exciting to arrive in; that served as a front door to the Olympic site,’ said John Maher, development manager for rail at the Olympic Coordination Authority.

Crowd modelling

The first step was to undertake extensive crowd modelling. ‘We needed to know how many stairs would be needed, how many egress points and where to position stairs, lifts and escalators, so we could empty the station every two minutes,’ Mr Maher said. Extensive crowd modelling undertaken by Arup Transportation Planning reached a number of conclusions. The single-span design was chosen to avoid the use of supporting columns that would impede the smooth circulation of visitors. Four sets of stairs from the central platform and five sets from the side platforms were required to provide optimal flow.

‘We opted for a horizontal design,’ the station’s chief design architect, Rodney Uren, said. ‘We used light and space to make it a memorable experience for passengers as they arrive. This also provides a strong base, which is easily identified and integrates with the surrounding public space.’

The result is a subtle, uncluttered and appealing. The 200-metre floating roof ripples over 18 steel arches in a folded vault configuration. Skylights along the ridges of the arches provide an abundance of natural light. From the underside, the roof trusses resemble a leaf, veined with parallel struts. Confirmation of the success of the design came when the station received the National Award for Public Architecture in the Royal Australian Institute of Architects 1998 awards.

For further information, visit the ATC media site at

http://www.media.australia.com and the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) site at http://www.sydney.olympic.org