Situated on the Middle Arm of the Fraser River, the Richmond Olympic Oval serves as the centerpiece of a new urban waterfront neighborhood featuring a mix of residential, commercial, and public amenity development. The new neighborhood is expected to be an international destination and meeting place offering diverse indoor and outdoor recreational activities, shopping, and services. This signature speed-skating venue for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games includes a landmark multipurpose sports, recreation and community facility. Beyond serving as a catalyst for the transformation of the riverfront into a high-density, urban neighborhood, the Oval functions as a venue for community events, creating a lasting legacy beyond its Olympic Games purpose.
Design Concept Beginning with Calgary in 1988, all Olympic long-track speed-skating facilities – except for Albertville – have been huge indoor facilities. Built solely to host Olympic speed-skating events, they have thus faced significant revenue and operations challenges post-Games. To be cost-effective, an indoor Olympic long-track speed-skating venue must be convertible for other uses.
The Oval’s level of program convertibility and multi-sport use is unprecedented in high performance sport buildings - especially one so technically demanding and environmentally sensitive. During the Games, the Oval housed a 400-metre speed-skating track with approximately 8,000 seats, television cameras and upgraded lighting. Interior spaces were reassigned to cater to the needs of the athletes, the media, the spectators, and the Olympic family. A complete range of sports-medicine, wellness services and activity areas, including a major fitness centre, were also housed in the Oval, along with retail and food service. 15,000 square feet of the facility was devoted to an anti-doping laboratory to ensure fair play during the 2010 Games.
Post-Games, the Oval transitioned to an international centre of excellence for sports and wellness. With three activity zones – an ice zone, a court zone, and a track zone – the building’s main activity space allows ice sports to occur simultaneously with other sports or community uses. The facility also provides several fitness areas. At any time, the facility can revert to the 400 m long-track speed skating oval. Design Solution: The Oval’s primary design themes – Flow, Flight & Fusion – are reflected in a number of the building’s striking features: Flow: the City of Richmond is an estuarial city surrounded by the Fraser River. Speed skaters flow on the ice and spectators and users flow in and out of the facility.
Flight: The graceful and elegant heron – the official symbol of the City of Richmond, is the inspiration for the architectural design of the Richmond Olympic Oval and is celebrated in a series of feathered roof spans that tail off the edge of the building to create porches that serve as outdoor gathering spaces. The ecological environment of the river is their native habitat. And of course, there’s the image of speed skaters flying across the ice.
Fusion: British Columbia – and Richmond in particular – is a fusion of cultures; First Nations, Asian, Western, Northern American….Canadian. The building fuses legacy functions and Olympic event requirements. The site links and fuses the downtown urban environment to the river. Organization: The Oval is organized around three levels. On the second level, a clear-span arch structure of approximately 330 ft houses the 400 m speed skating track and the legacy sports. The lower level provides support functions and parking, and the upper level - a mezzanine for fitness programs, spectator seating and hospitality lounge. The facility is a model for cutting-edge sustainable design, breaking new ground for sports and wellness facilities. In addition to conferring direct environmental and social benefits, the building’s green design earned LEED® Silver certification – a highly unusual achievement for a facility of this type (refrigeration) and size – and is also expected to yield significant operational cost savings over the building’s lifespan.
Materials and Systems Solution: The Oval’s main structure is comprised of 15 composite wood glue-laminated arches, spanning an unprecedented 100 m in length. Locally harvested B.C. Douglas Fir lumber was formed into V-shaped composite shape to achieve the span and carried on 30 concrete buttresses, allowing for an increase in the lateral stiffness of the arches as well as creating interstitial space for air distribution and services.
The Oval’s roof deck and the secondary structural panels that span 15 meters between the Glulam arches are composed of regionally harvested, pine-beetle-killed wood, in the form of a standard 2” x 4” lumber, nailed together to form a v-shaped wood box, and arched to create the vaulted ceiling panels forming the ‘Wood Wave’. Using wood from pine forests recently devastated by the pine-beetle epidemic in British Columbia for the entire 100 m x 200 m area of the roof structure allowed a distinctively beautiful surface to be produced with ordinary domestic lumber at substantial cost savings over alternative custom structural decking options.
The 20,000 sm roof of the Oval integrates heating, ventilating, air conditioning, plumbing, acoustical, electrical and lighting systems and their appurtenances, resulting in an elegant, ‘clean’ surface appearance. HVAC ducts are integrated within the ‘glulam’ arches with motorized nozzle jets placed along the length of the arch that deliver conditioned air to the activity areas below and provide environmental separation between the rinks and dry-land sport functions. The desired acouperformance characteristics of the space are attained by using soft lumber, perforations within the boxed pine-beetle wood beams, interior acoustical blankets and the deep, ‘v-shaped’ profile of the ceiling panels. Sprinkler pipes and sprinkler heads are also integrated into the ‘Wood Wave’ ceiling panels and the arches.