On August 19, 2011, British firm AECOM, a London-based building design and management company, was announced as the winner of the Rio 2016 Olympic Park Competition. Texas Society of Architects Board member Gabriel Durand-Hollis, FAIA, served as the sole U.S. juror on a panel of seven. In briefly recounting the experience, he highlights the fact that design is more than just a “pretty master plan.”
“Beyond the names and titles, the jurors had Olympic planning or venue experience from Barcelona, Athens, Sydney, and Beijing. In addition, there were people working on the Rio World Cup preparations for 2014. There were two individuals from the Municipal Government and they added a sense of reality to what could be done,” says Durand-Hollis.
“I knew it from the briefing materials, but the legacy component was a major factor. In other words, this was not just a selection of a pretty master plan. It had to work for the Olympics and then work to raise property values and bring resources to that part of the city five, ten years after the Olympics.
“The existing favela that was wedged along the lagoon was discharging raw sewage into the lagoon. We could see it from the helicopter. Environmental concerns, such as water quality as well as wise use and reuse of resources, were strongly emphasized. This was an engaged and intense jury process. Yes, we looked for beauty, but the practical aspects, the environmental concerns, the security needs, and the legacy of the event were a major part of the discussion,” he explains.
The competition brought together 60 entries from firms in 18 countries, with a final decision made by seven representatives from Rio City Hall, the International Union of Architects, Brazil’s Architects Institute, the Rio 2016 Organising Committee and the Federal Government.
AECOM’s winning masterplan outlines how the Olympic Park area will be used, as well as where the public spaces, squares, and parks will be located. It also outlines the location of permanent and temporary venues and the future real estate developments to be built at the site. Detailed planning is now being carried out by AECOM in conjunction with the parties involved in the park construction.