Many believe and follow the infamous quote by architect Louis Sullivan; “Form follows function”. He spoke on how a building looked should be secondary to how a building worked. Architectural function can bring another dimension to the building’s overall identity, sometimes even being the primary source of the building’s identity. If we look back at Zaha Hadid’s 2020 Olympic stadium in Tokyo, what are the functional benefits of the structure that makes it so costly? (The original cost proposal at the Tokyo 2020 bid was an estimate of 130 billion yen/£824m according to the In The Games website).
Discussing how a building functions depends on what the main purpose of the building is, whether it is purely for functional use, such as a warehouse, a balance between function and appearance, such as an homeowner’s house, or even to emphasise more on how a building looks, such as the Lloyd’s Building in London, which shows how the building looks from the inside-out. The general function purpose of a building is to create inhabitable spaces for people to occupy, which can range from work & commercial to leisure and personal use. How a building is constructed, kept running, how the spaces integrate, how long the building lasts for, all fall under the ‘function’ category. Other issues such as materiality, methods of heating and cooling, energy costs, load bearing and weather durability are also considered when trying to identify how a building works.
The issue of sustainability is a major factor in how buildings function today, as it can help improve the overall lifespan of the structure, as well as reducing energy costs, improve spatiality comfort, and can even change how a building would look. If we were to take a closer look into the 2020 stadium’s functions, how does Zaha Hadid’s proposal generally work, how it responds to the changing environmental climate and how will the building be profitable and socially responsible?
Even though we may not have detailed information on the building just yet, we know the stadium will hold up to 80, 000 people, as well as being adaptable for various sports, from Athletics, to Football, to Rugby. The stadium’s primary function is to host sporting events & ceremonies, but there will also be exhibition spaces (located within the covered bridge perimeter, think of the Bridge Pavilion for the Zaragoza Expo 2008) for visitors to see. As of now we don’t know how it will contribute to the environment positively or how the building will continue to be thoroughly used or adapt into a reusable function after the 2020 Olympics. Although it must be noted that the original stadium bid proposal was to renovate the current National Stadium but now it will be torn down to make way for the new stadium.
If we look at previous Olympic stadiums such as the Beijing National Stadium (Herzog & de Mueron, 2003-08) they are still being currently used for major championships such as the Supercoppa Italiana & the 2015 World Championships in Athletics. It has hosted concerts and has proposed plans to include retail and entertainment facilities. It still remains an arguably popular tourist attraction, despite reports of its decline and lack of significant sporting events. The Olympic Stadium of Athens (renovated by Santiago Calatrava, 2002-04) is suggested to be part of the whole Olympics 2004 argument in regards to the source of Greece’s economic decline, with the costs of the Olympics bringing about the nation’s initial plunge into financial crisis. (With a public debt rounding up to €168 billion back in 2004 according to Business Week). The Olympic Stadium in London (Populous, 2007-2011) attempted to create a structure that was good value for money in the long run and was adaptable to possible aftermath use. For example, it used a quarter less steel than what was used for the 2008 Beijing Stadium, surplus & recycled materials and removable components and seating (making it de-constructible for a smaller venue) were a few factors that led claim that the structure is environmentally friendly and not too costly. Again there are arguments that the building isn’t as sustainable or adaptable as originally claimed, but at least the stadium’s attempt to become more environmentally and economically aware are apparent.
We will have to wait and see in a few years to see how Hadid’s 2020 stadium will perform. In the meantime, here are some good examples of how function can become a building’s primary source of identity or how it impacts its appearance: The previously mentioned Lloyd’s Building with its metallic, modern-industrialised presence, it’s French counterpart, the Centre Georges Pompidou, with its colour-coordinated functioning structural components, 30 St Mary Axe’s oddly symmetrical elegance, the infamous Villa Savoye and the environmentally engaging CH2 building in Australia.
Name: Lloyd’s Building
Location: London, England
Architect: Richard Rogers
Name: Centre Georges Pompidou
Location: Paris, France
Name: 30 St Mary Axe
Location: London, England
Name: Villa Savoye
Location: Poissy, France
Date: 1928-31 (Renovated 1963, 1985-1997)
Name: Council House 2 (CH2)
Location: Melbourne, Australia