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Politecnico di Torino protagonist at the 2022 Beijing Olympics

6 July 2018

The project for one of the main Beijing games venues, designed by the Politecnico di Torino, has been presented in Beijing to the Organising Committee of the 2022 XXIV Winter Olympic Games: we are speaking of the transformation of a former Oxygen Factory into the Shougang area Spectator Centre, site of the Big Air discipline.

The Architecture and Design Department of the Politecnico was assigned this project last December, thanks to the involvement of  Tsinghua University which is responsible for the entire Masterplan of the area. The collaboration context is the consolidated relationship between Polito and Tsinghua, that has been going on for over 10 years: it began in 2008, with a workshop involving students from the two universities in the production of ideas and visions for re-use of the 2008 Beijing Olympic facilities (Beijing will be the first city to have hosted both the Summer and Winter Games).

In 2016, the Politecnico organised, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the XX Winter Games, a meeting between Turin 2006 and Beijing 2022, in order to start cooperation and exchange of expertise: a delegation from the Tsinghua University and from the Beijing 2022 Organising Committee visited the Politecnico for the inauguration of the academic year, acquiring knowledge of the Olympic areas and launching ideas for future collaborations.

The project for the Oxygen Factory is the first result of that initiative. The consolidated experience of Turin in industrial reclamation certainly played a big part, so much so that the Chinese customers call the project of the University of Turin “the Dora Park of Shougang”, with reference to the analogies with the large industrial nave transformed into a public space on the banks of the river Dora.

The Oxygen Factory is located in the area of the former State Steelworks of Shougang, a 9 million square metre plant (three times the entire FIAT Mirafiori area), which was closed before the 2008 Olympics for reasons of pollution and congestion. Situated at the western edge of the Chinese capital, close to the mountains, that area is currently experiencing a phase of complete urban transformation, to which the Politecnico project will contribute.

For the reclamation project, which develops 9000 square metres of new surface area, the Politecnico di Torino has fielded a work team led by the Department of Architecture and Design (DAD), with contributions from the Department of Structural Engineering (DISEG) and Energy (DENERG). 

The project's objective was to preserve the original space and image of the Oxygen Factory, while hosting a programme full of activities for the Olympic event and for its subsequent use. The works dialogue with the existing structure in three different ways.

On the ground floor, where the factory will be surrounded by a large park, spectators will be welcomed in a large covered public space, which can be transited in every direction: a fully equipped playground that will introduce the public to the pleasure of physical movement, to an active health experience and to the spirit of sports competition.

Higher up, the rich reception programme, offices and research centre are accommodated in two large glass volumes that "float" above the playground, inside the structural skeleton of the factory.

On the roof, some small club-houses emerge in the landscape, offering guests an exclusive experience inside them and on the factory roof, overlooking the competition area with a view of the river and the mountains.

The emphasis on the reclamation of existing structures is in line with the Chinese government's approach to the 2022 Winter Games: contrary to the 2008 edition, an event entirely aimed at the international visibility of the country, the new Olympics will focus on the ideas of sustainability, reuse and “zero ground consumption” – concepts that were the basis of the Politecnico project.

Construction is expected to start in the spring of 2019 and to conclude at the end of 2020 with the "test event". In liaison with the Italian Embassy and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China, the Politecnico intends to promote the use of Italian materials and technologies in the implementation of the works.

This occasion consolidates the experience of the Politecnico in China in the field of industrial reclamation: last September, the University won the first prize in the competition for the Piano Factory in Canton – 130,000 square metres which are now being turned into a new cultural park.