Monday, 28 September 2015

Zaha and the Great Island

Last summer, I joined a crocodile of honest folk, queuing alongside the Olympic competition pool, awaiting the pleasure of jumping in and swimming to the Great Island. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the Great Island is an enormous, blue/yellow inflatable that dwells in the midst of the pool, a cross between a bungee jump and a Wipeout-style challenge. I plunged into the 10-foot pool, bobbed to the surface and swam to the island. I grasped the pull-handles and pulled, and pulled, and pulled… I had just about given up when I pulled me out of the water and onto the Great Island – but the challenge was just beginning. I cleared one hurdle, climbing a plastic mount and sliding down the other side – loved that bit – and that was it. The next challenge was to negotiate another obstacle by working sideways along it with the aid of yet more pull-handles – and there was no, but no way my floppy body was going to triumph. I plunged back into the water, said good-bye to the GI, and spent the rest of the session swimming up and down, up and down, as one does in a pool. Yet, it was an enjoyable experience, and leaving the Tom Daly-style flip dives to the kids did give me an opportunity to contemplate the architecture, and the sheer luxury of swimming in such a space. Congratulations to Zaha Hadid for winning the RIBA gold medal, and a parallel thanks for that marvellous building. I have been to the Aquatics Centre twice already and each time, excitement has filled me on approaching that soaring, inspiring building, and thrilling to its extraordinary shape. What matter if first-time visitors get confused when looking for the entrance? My bet is that the architect intended us to walk around and actually look at it – it’s hardly a hospital A&E department or a police station, after all. One thing is certain; an entire generation of young people in and near Stratford are unlikely to live as couch potatoes – and a number may even become architects.

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