With just over 400 days remaining before the 2024 Olympic Games, Paris is readying itself to host athletes from around the world.
The capital is witnessing a construction boom as new buildings are erected and old ones are repurposed and renovated for the upcoming games.
In total, 35 venues are being prepared for the games – with the Aquatics Centre, the only permanent sports facility constructed for the Games.
Paris has committed to achieving a carbon-positive Olympic Games by halving emissions and offsetting more than they generate.
To achieve this, organisers are using 95% of existing or temporary venues – which includes Grand Palais Éphémère, which will host the judo and wrestling.
The Paris Olympic Aquatics Centre
In July 2020, Dutch studio VenhoevenCS and its French partner Ateliers 2/3/4/ won the right to design the centre – which will host the artistic swimming, water polo and diving events.
Under French law, all new public buildings must be constructed with at least 50 per cent timber. The Aquatics Centre is the only venue for the Games required to meet this regulation.
Connected by a pedestrian bridge to the existing ‘Stade de France’ (erected in August 2022), the centre is “an important investment in the future of Saint-Denis” – one of the most problematic neighbourhoods in France.
The venue’s main hall is topped by a 5,000 sqm glue-laminated timber roof that spans 89 metres but is only 50 centimetres in diameter.
The curved roof is raised at the sides to accommodate the stands while dipping in the middle to reduce the volume of the space, making it more efficient to heat.
“The roof, stretched with wooden beams, magnifies the space thanks to its dynamic curves that make it both intimate and airy,” according to the designers.
“Adapted to open heights and optimal visibility from the stands, this sculpted membrane seems to move and undulate like a living organism.”
All visible structural elements inside the centre are made from timber, supporting loads of up to 800 tonnes.
“By using wood for this monumental structure, the proposal doubles the required minimum percentage of bio-sourced materials,” meeting the organising committees’ requirements for sustainability.
The roof is topped with solar panels, making it the “largest urban photovoltaic farm in France”.
During the Games, the first floor will accommodate stands for 6,000 people. These stands will be positioned alongside the pool, with a third stand opposite the diving tower.
Following the Games, one of the stands will be removed to reduce the capacity to 2,500. The space where the stand stood will then be used for five-a-side football pitches, which will overlook the main pool.
Both sides of the building will be clad in timber with a sunshade made from a steel structure supporting timber louvres, enclosing walkways containing seating – part of an effort to integrate the building into the surrounding park.
The Georges-Vallerey Pool is set for a revamp ahead of the Games
One hundred years after the 1924 Paris Olympics, the Georges-Vallery pool is one of the venues undergoing renovations.
The pool, currently a construction site, proudly displays the Olympic rings – a sight it is no stranger to.
A century ago, the complex counted great exploits in the pool. Notably that of the American Johnny Weissmuller, a three-time Olympic medallist, who later became Tarzan on the screen.
In addition to these feats, it was avant-garde.
It was, in France, the first Olympic pool with a 50-meter pool, defined by separating the pool into several lines to create lanes.
However, due to its limited seating capacity, the pool will not host competitive swimming events at the upcoming games. Instead, it will serve as a training site – assisting Olympians prepare for the games.
Around 50 workers are diligently working on completing the renovations by next year. Most of the renovation work pertains to the pool and its roof covering, which has been absent since January.
The reconstruction is being led by Romain Viault from AIA Life Designers. The previous roof was made of larch wood and will be replaced by Douglas fir from forests in the Vosges and Jura.
“Through this renovation project, there is also a very strong environmental and social ambition,” explains Flavie Anet, project manager for the operation within the steering and expertise division of the Paris City Council’s Youth and Sports Department.
The timber from the old framework will be used to make furniture and signage, which will be placed in the renovated pool. The city of Paris has donated excess timber to the Extramuros Association, a Parisian volunteer association which recycles building materials.
The opening is scheduled for March 2024 for athletes who will have the chance to train in the footsteps, or rather in the “fathoms” of former medal winners.
For Parisians, on the other hand, it will be necessary to wait until the end of the Olympic Games, in March 2025, to swim in the pool and enjoy the good weather and the sun on summer afternoons, thanks to the future new opening roof.