Designing and constructing the Olympic roof : (Munich 1972) / Jos Tomlow

Tomlow, Jos

Designing and building the stadium complex for the International Olympic Games 1972 in Munich in only five years, may be characterized as a singular challenge. The futuristic and huge tensile structure, covered with Plexiglas became to be designed by engineers and architects of different fields: Günther Behnisch, Frei Otto, Fritz Leonhardt, Jörg Schlaich, John Hadji Argyris, Klaus Linkwitz with Carl Mertz responsible for the management. Based on written reports and testimonials from witnesses of the process, the paper analyses all phases, starting from the skepticism of many that the most spectacular part, the roof, would be buildable. After Leonhardt/Schlaich also Otto/Bubner became part of the design team. At the start of building the engineers registered that the technical models of the Frei Otto team could not bring exact data for (all) cutting patterns, which was a crucial problem. Both Argyris and Linkwitz delivered feasible computational methods for calculating cable lengths and joint locations. The executed result was criticized by its authors for different reasons, in the same time respecting the unique mutual achievement. The spectacular Olympic stadium complex was much appreciated by visitors, and critics ranked it as one of the most impressive and innovative examples of German architecture.

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