Münchner Olympiapark…uncovered

Wednesday 18 March, 2009

I checked out this presentation at the architecture school @ IIT Munich ’72: Olympic Architecture and Rhetoric The question to be answered was did the rhetoric @ the time support the architecture?  Pardon me for the indulgence, but I lived in München for a couple of years & spent a lot of time @ the Olympiapark, so even if it’s not business-related, I just have to write about it.

1972 was a marker for architecture which anticipated contemporary design. Part of the intent in hosting the 1972 Olympics was to refute what transpired in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, i.e. with no monuments, even though the Olympiapark was constructed on an old military airfield/rubble hill (debris of destroyed buildings from the war).

These were to be Olympics in the countryside, influenced by the nearby English Gardens , with small trees to emphasize the size of the manmade hill to appear larger & reflect the image of the nearby Alps.

The roofs were modeled after tents “designed by nature” itself by the Institute for lightweight structures in Stuttgart & repudiated the domes of the ’36 Olympics.  Extremely complex models were made by hand with many feedback loops, at 1st without computers until 1969.   Originally all Olympic bid-reviewers said the roofs couldn’t be made & they were still being designed even after the foundations for the buildings had been set, but they were completed.   These roofs were also advantageous because they did not cast shadows, which was good for TV coverage.

Q&A revealed that since München now has a new fußball (soccer) stadium, the ’72 stadium has become an unused catastrophic monument itself, hosting only a few events/year. Ironically, the roofs were never seen as a technological achievement in Germany.  The success was seen in the combination of natural light & materials.

I saw concerts @ the Olympiastadion Olympiahalle, & Theatron, swam in the Schwimmhalle where Mark Spitz won 7 Olympic gold medals, watched hockey games in the Eisstadion, ran through the Olympiapark, & even took a bunch of pictures of a triathlon when I was there a few years ago.  I’m a little sad that it sounds like it might be falling into disrepair, but coming up on 40 years is a pretty good run.  Europeans don’t tend to tear things down as quickly as we do, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they find some way to extend the life of this place.  I spent a great time of my life there-I’ll always go back.

I asked the presenter & guy who recorded the video to send over their materials or links, but haven’t heard back from them.


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