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WilkinsonEyre puts legacy first at Rio Olympics’ Arenas Cariocas

The Arenas Cariocas, the largest venue at the Rio Olympics, is currently hosting exciting sports including fencing and judo, and will soon hold a number of Paralympic competitions.

The Arena, essentially three stadia in one, was designed by WilkinsonEyre, who also designed the successful temporary London Basketball Arena for the 2012 Olympics.

Formed as three arenas under one roof, the 400m long structure provides seating for 36,000 spectators and is hosting various Olympic competitions including basketball, judo, wrestling, taekwondo and fencing. In Paralympic Games mode it will host wheelchair basketball, rugby and boccia.

The building is made up of three related sculptural forms, which run parallel to the main Olympic Walk through the heart of the Olympic Park.

Built on Rio de Janeiro’s old Formula One circuit, the Arenas Cariocas will be transformed after the Games into an Elite Athlete Training Centre, leaving behind a defining legacy.

The reconfigured building will provide the necessary infrastructure for the training and development of top athletes and will allow Rio de Janeiro to continue hosting important international sports events for many years to come.

Sam Wright, Associate Director at WilkinsonEyre, told PS&AM:

One of the challenges came down to legacy use because it was established very early that this was going to be a legacy training venue for elite athletes in Brazil. We were going from five Olympic sports during the Games to 20 Olympic bodies using the venue in legacy mode.

The client, the City of Rio de Janeiro, did not want to be building the building twice. They wanted to take out the seating etc., and have a very simple conversion to legacy. We designed it legacy first and then looked to see how we could work the Games diagram into the legacy diagram.

Wright also said that the changing rooms and warm-up courts were placed outside the venue to facilitate this process, as he explained:

We designed the Arenas Cariocas in Rio with functionality and adaptability in mind. Much like our final design for the Basketball Arena at the 2012 London Olympics Games, the challenge was to create a temporary building that would be both simple to erect and sustainable in terms of its legacy.

This is a transitional building that can morph after the Games into a different typology with zero impact on the fabric of the built form. Aesthetically, the Arenas Cariocas differs from our other stadium designs in that we were asked to deliver three arenas in one footprint.

From the outside, one can glimpse the singular form housing the three venues, operating simultaneously and yet from within, the spectator will be fully immersed in the drama of the individual sport.

WilkinsonEyre’s design of the Arenas Cariocas is part of the international design competition for the masterplan of the Rio 2016 Olympic Park, which was won with AECOM.

WilkinsonEyre developed the concept for the arenas and took the project to detailed design. In spring 2013, the project was handed over to the Rio Mais consortium to be delivered by local architect, Arqhos Consultoria e Projetos.


Project credits

Client: City of Rio de Janeiro

Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Architect: WilkinsonEyre

Delivery Architect: Arqhos Consultoria e Projetos

Masterplanners: AECOM

Area: 58,000m²

Structural Engineer: AECOM

Main Contractor: Rio Mais (Construtora Norberto Odebrecht, Andrade Gutierrez and Carvalho Hosken)


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