Model, architectural, Athletes Village, Urban Village Design Group, for the Sydney Olympics 2000 Bid Ltd, Sydney 1992.
The Olympic site now features a new suburb of over 1,000 residences, as well as a new railway line and station, Showground, Olympic sports venues and parklands. With a professional design content even more pervasive than that employed in the development of Canberra, this is one of Australia's most significant and ambitious urban developments. The project is also notable as an exception to the introverted economic and political climate of the late-1990s - both the NSW and Australian governments completed a project conceived by their predecessors in more expansive times.
The models are appealing and significant documents of this major urban development. They are also an important record of Sydney's successful bid for the 2000 Olympics.
Sydney's Olympics strategy was to present a bid which was technically stronger than its rivals. The emphasis was on better venues at an advanced stage of planning and an athletes village on the same site as the major venues - no other bidder could match this aspect of the bid. As a result, an unusual degree of architectural commitment was made before the bid outcome was known. The results of this commitment were the central element of the bid. David Churches, the architect in charge of design for the Sydney Bid, stated in early 1993 that the designs presented to the International Olympic Committee 'are not so much technical resolutions but concepts which we can use for marketing...nevertheless, there must be sufficient resolution to satisfy everyone that the proposals can work' [Architecture Australia, May/June 1993, p.62].
The models were crucial to this architectural marketing. In his memoir of Sydney's Olympic bid, Rod McGeoch emphasised their importance to the successful campaign: 'The bid office contained superb models of the venues...These models gave the big picture in a way no amount of mapping, photography or computer modelling could rival. The concrete product we were selling centred on the high technical standard of these, the credibility of what was planned or being built and every advantage they offered. Good products cannot be left to sell themselves'. The models are thus not only a record of the Bid but an element in its success.
Since the success of the Sydney bid in September 1993, design and planning of the Olympic venues saw substantial changes. Of the seven models, only the Velodrome, elements of the Olympic Village and Olympic Park are accurate representations of the planned venues. However, the documentary value of the models is not compromised by the substantial gap between what was proposed in 1992 and 1993 and delivered in 2000.
Since the financially disastrous Montreal Olympics of 1976, most Olympic cities, notably Los Angeles, Barcelona and Atlanta, have hosted the Games primarily in existing venues. This was not an option for Sydney, which lacked numerous Olympic-standard venues, notably a large stadium.Sydney's proposal to create a vast new sporting and residential complex at Homebush was largely dependent on the success of its Olympic bid. That most of the proposed venues were only to be built if the 2000 Games were secured emphasised their uncertain ongoing viability. The long-term financial viability of two major commitment - the Olympic Stadium and the Athletes Village - was considered particularly marginal.
The NSW Government found private investors prepared to take most of the financial risk for these two projects. The Government's caution has proved to well-founded in respect of the stadium. In contrast the former Athletes Village - now the suburb of Newington - has proved to be both a financial and an architectural success. More broadly Olympic Park has proved a catalyst for residential development in surrounding suburbs. The Canada Bay area - including Rhodes, Meadowbank and Liberty Grove - by 2010 had the fastes population growth in Sydney.
Charles Pickett, curator.
The Athletes Village and the Velodrome were the only Olympic Park designs to be built from the Sydney Bid design competitions. Five entrants in the Village design contest were jointly awarded first prize, and were commissioned to work together as the Urban Village Design Group. The successful entrants were Bruce James and Partners, Phillip Thalis and Peter John Cantrill, Mazhar Berke and Gungor Ozme, John Hockings, Roderick Simpson and Andrea Wilson.
The last designers were particularly significant. According to Rod McGeoch, CEO of the Bid, 'one of the successful entries just happened to be submitted by two young architects connected with Greenpeace, Andrea Wilson and Rod Simpson. When we found this out, we couldn't believe our good fortune' [Bid: How Australian won the 2000 Games, p.139]. Through Greenpeace's involvement in the Olympic Village design, and their subsequent role in developing environmental guidelines for the Olympic venues, the Sydney Bid was promoted as the 'green' bid, with Greenpeace representatives taking part in Bid presentations.
The buildings depicted in the model were designed to take advantage of aspect and climate via north-facing shaded windows, cross ventilation, evaporative panels and roof gardens. These features plus the use of solar power promised a sparing use of energy resources, as did the intention to use timber and other renewable and recyclable materials [Sydney Morning Herald, 27 November 1992, p.3].
The Village design was promoted as 'state of the art living for the next century; how people will build and live, taking into account environmental concerns' [McGeoch, p.140]. However, the Village also had to be attractive to the housing market after the Games. Reconciling these objectives became a major problem for the Government when Sydney was awarded the Games, especially when it was advised that the market value of the Village was likely to be substantially less than its development cost [Sydney Morning Herald, 31 May 1995, p.3].
In 1996 SOCOG invited tenders for the Village design from consortiums which combined architects with major construction and housing developers. This is undoubtedly the most controversial Olympic development decision - many architects and environmentalists claimed that the mixture of ecological and urban idealism embodied in the model would be replaced by an sprawling Sydney suburb.
The successful consortium tender was announced in December 1996. It comprises the construction groups Lend Lease and Mirvac with architects Philip Cox Richardson Taylor and Peddle Thorp providing the overall design concepts and layout. A group of smaller practices are involved to develop residential designs.The Village consortium insisted that its tender replicates the best features of the Bid design: 'They will be dense urban living, averaging 28 homes to a hectare, while the normal subdivision has seven or eight to the hectare' [Sydney Morning Herald, 14 December 1996, pp.6-7]. In addition, 500 demountable houses were used, removed after the Games and replaced by 600 permanent structures.
Renamed Nerwington the former Athletes Village reopened as a residential development in during the early 2000s. It is partly composed of a mixture of two and three-storey apartments as featured in the model. However, it also includes a substantial number of two and three-bedroom detached and terrace type houses. To the surprise of many, Mirvac┬?s architects worked with other practices to produce a reinterpretation of suburban design which was both widely admired and highly successful. This latter result ┬? somewhat at odds with initial expectations ┬? is credited with creating a new appreciation of the value of architects┬? input at Mirvac and elsewhere in the development industry.
The model was made by R & F Porter Model Makers P/L Sydney.
Charles Pickett, curator.