A year ago, when AECOM won the bid to master plan the main site of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the proposed development plot was just a disused Formula 1 race circuit. Today, with three years to go until the finishing deadline its, well… its still covered with an old F1 track.

Time was always going to be an issue in this project as they do things with a different sense of urgency in Brazil. AECOM, being already involved in a number of urban regeneration projects in Brazil, was aware of this and used it to its advantage when bidding for the master planning. The practice, which has been closely involved in London 2012 (see page 48), decided to design all the venues as well.

‘It didn’t work master planning with just boxes for the stadia,’ says AECOM principal Graham Goymour. ‘We needed resolution of the spaces around the venues and time was definitely a factor — the Games were close enough that we saw the benefit of going to the next level. We felt we’d prequalified with a lot of the work we’d done on London 2012. There are a lot of differences but quite a few similarities. We knew about all of the operational demands that are required.’

For the bid AECOM’s sports architects also involved local partner DG Architects, plus Barcelona aquatic specialist Pujol — the architecture practice rather than the bewigged Barça centre-back — and the UK’s Wilkinson Eyre for the combined basketball, fencing, wrestling and judo, and handball arenas. The handball has been split away from the original group and is now likely to be the transplanted basketball arena from London, which was also designed by Wilkinson Eyre.

Like London, legacy is a large part of the 2016 project. Essentially it breaks into two parts. First, the main venues will form a permanent Olympic training centre after the Games that, unlike London, ‘has to work as one cohesive site,’ says Goymour. The second part is mostly about housing and commercial space (AECOM’s competition entry also proposed a school to be built near a bordering favela and the redevelopment of the international press building as a college). A lot of money in a project like this goes into putting in the utilities, and we wanted at least 70 per cent of the infrastructure to be used afterwards,’ explains Goymour.

But mostly it’s about housing and it’s here that the real difference with London )

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