I grabbed a B-Line on Saturday down to Richmond for the opening of the Big O:
The Richmond Olympic Oval will be the most significant purpose-built legacy of the 2010 Games. It’s certainly Richmond’s pride and joy. First impression: it has the size, scale and look of an airport terminal – kind of appropriate for the nearest Olympic location to YVR.
Second impression: at a half-million square feet without a column, it feels even bigger on the inside.
Too big, in fact. The space is so vast, it has no embrace. That may be fine for the actual speed-skating competition when thousands of cheering spectators will fill the oval; not so good for day-to-day use. Fortunately it will be cut up into multiple uses afterwards – hopefully done with finesse.
The roof is, of course, the dominant design element – and the extensive use of wood gives it some needed warmth. Hard to tell in some places, though, whether the effect is purposeful or simply unfinished:
The architects of the Oval were Cannon Johnston Architecture Inc. – something not mentioned in the explanatory brochure handed out on opening day, nor, believe it or not, on the Oval’s web site under “architecture.”
They do name the artists and their works – particularly Susan Point’s Coast Salish themed water-collectors on the buttresses:
And the Water Sky Gardens – a collaborative effort between Janet Echelman, Phillips, Fareraag, Smallenberg Landscape Architecture, and the Cannon Design Team.
The ads for opening day advised spectators to arrive by transit, foot or bike, given the limited parking. I took transit to Aberdeen and then cycled to the Oval, only to find they had not provided a single bike rack, at least that I could find, at either entrance.
The Oval touts its sustainability (it will be a LEED Silver building). But I find it hard to take such sentiments seriously when an organization cannot even provide one of the cheapest and most visible indicators of its sincerity, particularly for a facility meant to promote personal health through activity.
No doubt the racks are in the plans. And the plans for the future of the site, the surrounding area and the connections to the Canada Line are still to be executed.
In time the Oval will serve its purpose: to give Richmond an iconic structure that announces its arrival as a destination, not just as a place to travel through or a bedroom for Vancouver. Read more »