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Olympic Villages of Old

Posted by Josh Rothman  July 31, 2012 09:01 PM

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Over at Design Observer, Anisha Gade has put together an interesting slideshow of Olympic villages past. Host nations invest in huge Olympic villages because they hope that, after the games, the buildings can be put to re-used in a productive (and remunerative) way; the fate of past Olympic villages shows that it's far from a sure bet. Meanwhile, though, the architecture of the Olympic village is interesting in itself: "While signature stadiums like Beijing’s Bird’s Nest (Herzog & de Meuron, 2008) and London’s Olympic Stadium (Populous, 2012) grab the headlines, the urban form of the Olympic Village is often overlooked."


Some of the buildings in London's Olympic Village use friezes based on the Elgin Marbles.
(Photo: Niall McLaughlin Architects.)

Today's Olympic villages turn out to be a big step up from the Olympic Villages in previous games:

In the early Olympiads, there was no need for official athlete housing. Only 241 competitors took part in the 1896 Athens ceremonies -- a far cry from the 17,000 expected in London this summer. At the 1928 Amsterdam games, athletes were accommodated in spare rooms in boarding houses and aboard ships. The first Olympic Village was built in 1932, in the Baldwin Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, but it was dismantled after the games and virtually no trace survives today. Not until the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki did host cities began to plan and develop permanent structures for housing athletes.

Check out the whole slideshow at Design Observer.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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