Icon 158: Rio Olympics 01.07.16

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Our latest issue looks forward to this summer's Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro – considering the role of architecture and urban planning in securing a lasting legacy

Since the 2004 Athens Olympics, the fundamental question hanging over any Games concerns legacy. With its crumbling white-elephant stadiums and weed-strewn concrete, the Greek city has become shorthand for lack of forethought and waste. Similarly, Beijing’s astonishing Bird’s Nest stadium lies empty. Given these gloomy precedents it’s little wonder London’s austerity Olympics was all but defined by legacy-related handwringing. And, despite delivering less housing than initially promised, it looks the most assured of recent times. Soon the world will focus on Rio de Janeiro’s Olympics. Mayor Eduardo Paes, interviewed in this issue, is upbeat about hosting the greatest show on earth, but no amount of tub-thumping can drown out the background noise of political scandal, tragic accidents and health scares.

This month’s cover story suggests opportunities are being lost. The much-heralded metro system extension feels like the proverbial finger in the dam when you consider Rio’s traffic ranks among the worst in the world. Furthermore, most of the investment seems destined to entrench social divisions in an already fractured society. Rio’s immediate hope lies in the Olympics’ adaptive architecture – the handball arena, which will transform into four schools, being a prime example. But if the Olympic dream means anything beyond athletics, the future frameworks on which bids are judged must push harder for visionary urban thinking. Otherwise the parade of white elephants will continue to grow.



James McLachlan


Cover artwork

Borja Bonaque



quotes story

Rio's mayor Eduardo Paes, interviewed in this issue, is upbeat about hosting the greatest show on earth




Clerkenwell Design Week A watch inspired by Issey Miyake, Benjamin Hubert’s wheelchair, Bolon’s couture line and a driverless car, without the car – all launched at the central London festival in May

Kit Google’s long-awaited modular smartphone finally makes it to the developers

Destination BIG’s pixelly Serpentine Pavilion launches

Restaurant An inside-out eatery in west London

Hotel Patricia Urquiola’s energetic offering in Milan

Retail A science-fiction interior for Istanbul’s fashionistas

Neighbourhood The impact of a design island on Nantes’ creative industries


Feature The Rio Olympics is an opportunity wasted, argues Will Henley

Residential A Parisian social housing block with an elegant Venetian facade

Office Spatial alchemy in aid of innovation at London’s Here East

Public Norman Foster’s intimate Maggie’s Centre in Manchester echoes the early days of his career

Public Alvaro Siza’s refined red brick theatre in Catalonia proves his mastery once again

Icon João Batista Vilanova’s modernist architecture school in São Paulo was designed to shock

Q&A Rio de Janeiro’s mayor on securing an Olympic legacy for the famous city


Feature Forty years of avant-garde design at BD Barcelona

Lighting Foscarini’s eclectic offering

Kitchen and bathroom Behind the scenes at the Caesarstone factory

Furniture Konstantin Grcic hacks at Vitra’s refined image

Icon Graphic designer Aloisio Magalhães defined Rio’s 1960s cultural identity

Q&A Ilse Crawford: from interiors to product design

Review Patrik Schumacher slams this Venice Biennale

Ideas Might designers one day be extinct?

Rethink Rome has been resting on its laurels

Obsession Two writers on their bittersweet love affair


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