By Design: Shanghai’s Oriental Sports Center

You could say the complex, once industrial land, made a big splash in July 2011 when it hosted an international swimming championship.

Mar 5, 2012
Shanghai Oriental Sports Center
The Shanghai Oriental Sports Center and its reflection show off design elements that suggest waves, swells and billowing sails.
Photography Associated Press

The place: Shanghai Oriental Sports Center

The backstory: Former industrial land in Shanghai edging the Huangpu River was redeveloped into this striking sports park, which you can glimpse on the drive in from Pudong Airport. The complex was inaugurated with the hosting of the FINA World Swimming Championship in July 2011.

The beauty: Water, water, everywhere—and how appropriate, in one of the world’s great harbour cities! While these facilities can house other sports like boxing, basketball and ice hockey, as well as concerts, they are largely designed for swimming events. Not only that; the buildings stand on elevated platforms above a man-made lake and are connected to each other by bridges. Each bridge can be seen rising above—and reflected in—the watery surface. Their architectural forms and design elements, too, suggest waves, swells and billowing sails.

Beneath the surface, tech-forward features include a system using water from the artificial lake to heat water in the swimming pools, and under-seat air conditioning for the spectators.

Fun fact: Sports Center designers gmp Architekten, though Germany-based, have completed dozens of major projects in China, including sports and convention facilities in Shenzhen, Foshan and Xian, as well as Beijing’s National Museum of China.

Next: London’s 2012 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion

Previous: Doha’s Musheireb


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