Perhaps the ultimate example of ephemeral architecture, the 35,000-seat open-air arena in PyeongChang, South Korea, will be used only four times before it is torn down.
In PyeongChang Olympic Main Stadium, you’ll get all the pomp and pageantry that is part and parcel of Olympic opening ceremonies. What you won’t get is a roof. The 35,000-seat stadium, tucked right into the snow-covered venues where athletes will compete in ski jumping, giant slalom, and bobsledding, will be fully exposed to the elements, and the elements in a Korean winter average well below freezing.
Architecture website Archdaily.com reports that the pentagonal building—which cost 116 billion Korean won (about US$109 million) to build—was the subject of some controversy, with many factions pointing out that the winter is a bad time to sit outside in the cold. In the end, budget constraints won out, and in lieu of shelter, ticket holders will be given “a windbreaker, a lap blanket, knit caps, a heated cushion, and hand and feet warmers” to help them through a three-hour opening ceremony (a ceremony that this writer has trouble sitting through on his warm sofa).
But if there is to be a gold medal in realistic thinking, it must go to the South Koreans. Rather than make a promise that a stadium of this size would serve as some economic or cultural boon going forward, the South Korean government plans to simply tear it down after four uses (two each at the Olympics and the Paralympics). Would that Rio had been so smart, or honest.
And if those heated seat cushions are up to snuff, spectators of the 2018 ceremonies will probably not mind the missing roof. One of PyeongChang’s little secrets is that February is its driest month, and it’s not likely to snow much at all during the games.
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