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London 2012 BMW Group Pavilion

The British have a particular fondness for the Victorian bandstand. Not much more than a lightweight roof supported on slender columns the idea of the bandstand is to get close to nature by stripping back the architecture to a minimum. There is no role for exotic form and shape-making: the architecture's beauty comes not from itself but rather from its open attitude to its natural surroundings.

With the Victorian bandstand as a point of departure, the BMW Group Pavilion seeks a similar relationship to its setting. In practice, this has involved addressing questions of spectacle and presence, of the relationship to BMW's product and service offering, and of sustainability.

Positioned directly on the Waterworks River in the Olympic Park the pavilion required a certain presence and aesthetic interest. This is achieved by re-imagining the classical podium — the base that thrusts the architecture upwards — as something completely immaterial or ethereal, but with even more power to excite and inspire. The traditional plinth is massive and heavy. The pavilion plinth is immaterial, light, and animated: water streams down around the ground floor creating a constantly changing facade. The first floor that forms the plinth is covered with water; this water spills down on all four sides of the pavilion entirely covering the ground floor. This urban water wall therefore forms a liquid podium apparently supporting the delicate pavilions above it. We envisage the water doing more than creating an exciting visual effect. The surface of the first floor is essentially a thin reflective pool. This pool reflects its environment: the cars, the visitors and the Olympic site. The flowing water also creates an enclosure. The pavilion is thus able to capture the intimacy and ‘other worldliness’ associated with life behind the waterfall. But above all, the waterfall creates excitement through animation, noise, and constant change.

One of the pavilion's functions is to display BMW's new fleet of electric and hybrid vehicles. These vehicles use carbon fibre bodywork with fluid soft curves. The geometry of the pavilion roofs manifests a similar calm and rationale attitude to geometry through the use of off-phase sinusoidal curves set out in symmetrical arrangement. The dynamism of this form is a function of the immediate associations: wave forms, fluid dynamics, air flow all incorporate similar patterns. What is important here is that this form is an abstraction of these associations. The geometry does not imitate or in any sense look like something else: it is therefore best understood as the idea of fluidity.

The pavilion itself is conceived not as one mega-form but rather as a family of smaller pavilions. The original architectural conceit was of a group of pavilions huddled close together during the Olympics — but at the end of the Games dispersed to other locations. Each pavilion would find a new home within a natural setting. The pavilions would represent a constant reminder of the Olympics. This idea has a symbolic resonance: it reinforces the connection with the environment. This connection with things natural is at the heart of sustainability.


Location: London, UK

Use: London 2012 BMW Group Pavilion

Client: BMW (AG)

Status: completed summer 2012

Area: 1,500 sqm

Design Team: Chris Lee, Bolam Lee, Martin Jameson, Patrick Usbourne, Simon Whittle, Fei Wu, Kapil Gupta and Santosh Thorat

Physical Model: Huida Xia and Lola Lozano

Executive Architect: Franken Architekten

Structural Engineering: AKT II

Mechanical Engineering: Atelier Ten

Water Feature Specialist: Fountains Direct

Interiors: Mutabor

Project Managers: KSV Krüger Schuberth Vandreike

Images: Edmund Sumner; Clive Barker (aerial)