Eric Höweler AIA
The 2016 Lyceum Competition was inspired by the proposal that Boston be the host city for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. And while we know with certainty that the Olympics will not be hosted in Boston, the foundation of the design problem remains exciting and challenging even as a theoretical exercise. Therefore, the 2016 Lyceum program asks its student competitors to approach this design problem using Boston as the hypothetical host city. The Lyceum founders are especially excited to see the ideas and concepts in response to this program because Boston is the Lyceum’s home.
Using the Boston 2024 Olympic bid as a scenario, the Lyceum Fellowship competition will explore urban, architectural and landscape issues in a six week design studio.
Boston’s successful bid for the US city to host the 2024 Olympics, has been met with a mix of concern and guarded optimism. Proponents have touted the marketing boost that the Olympics would bring to the city, while detractors point to the financial track records of host cities, the disruption caused by the Olympics and the ruins of athletic facilities abandoned after the Olympics are over. The debate prompted by the prospect of hosting The Games has been a productive dialog about the city, its infrastructure, it long term vision, and its values.
During the selection process the host city necessarily markets itself to attract The Games. In Boston’s case, the Boston 2024 Olympic Committee showcased Boston’s history, its universities, its innovation economy, its transit, and its walkability. Literature supporting the bid claimed that Boston’s Olympics would be sustainable, walkable and compact. It would also be fiscally responsible, with a plan to utilize many existing sports facilities and plans to recycle structures that would only be used for the duration of the games.
Boston as a city and a venue has been on display. It is at once an asset, a showcase, and a photogenic backdrop to a media spectacle that inevitably transforms host cities in significant ways. Highlighting Boston’s urban qualities as assets and pointing out the limits of existing infrastructure, like Boston’s ailing transit system, has been productive in shifting the discussion towards Boston’s long term plans, regardless of whether Boston is eventually selected.
In planning for London 2012, urban economist Ricky Burdett noted that the Olympics would serve as a great catalyst for constructing housing and rail infrastructure that London needed to build anyways. Critics have argued that the Olympics would divert attention and funds away from much needed investments and would ultimately result in wasted resources and underutilized sports venues. Images of former Olympic facilities abandoned and overgrown epitomize the wastefulness of “single serving” Olympic architecture. In Athens, the stadia built for the 2004 Olympics are modern day ruins in just 10 years after the events.