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Second Life

Imagining the future of the Olympic village in Paris

Master Dissertation Studio 2024-25
Tutor: Erik Van Daele
Engagement Urban Cultures

Philip Guston Evidence, image of reference for the concept of the Olympic village (uapS)

Design research

By the start of the academic year the Olympic and para-Olympic games will be over. In this studio we research by design the second life of the Olympic infrastructure. New sport infrastructure, new housing for the athletes, new collective functions such as restaurants and leisure… have been built. How can we reuse these infrastructures and imagine their second live?

The notion of a second live has different perspectives: architectural, urban design and urban.


The housing for the athletes is temporary housing: sleeping rooms are shared, there are no kitchens, dividing walls are removable… In essence only the structure of the buildings is permanent. The city of Paris envisaged the future of the Olympic village as a new neighbourhood with a mixed population: social, middle class and high standard. How can we rethink the basic structure of the village as a new housing neighbourhood? Most of the architects who designed the buildings, already thought of the second life of these housing projects in concept diagrams. We rethink the transformation of these housing projects and go much more in detail.

Urban design

Next to the Olympic village is la ville du cinema a former warehouse that was used as film studio and film school and is now abandoned. Currently it is the restaurant where the athletes dine as they do not have private kitchens. The warehouse has an enormous scale determining the character and quality of the neighbourhood. We imagine the second life of this industrial infrastructure and the way it dialogues with the surrounding context of the Seine and the future of the Olympic village and its landscape.

La ville du cinema, source unknown


The Olympic village is a strategic project in the city of Paris. It is considered as a lever to upgrade Saint- Ouen, a deprived neighbourhood on the outskirts of Paris. Saint-Ouen is an industrial area near the Seine. Although it was the inspiration for Seurat’s Dimanche a la grand Jatte, it has more of the atmosphere of Seurat’s Baignade a Asnieres. A recreational area in front of an industrial site; comparable to the sint Anna Beach on the Antwerp left bank in front of the industrial area of the port.

How can we use the Olympic village to further upgrade a deprived area? Can we design bottom up, using architecture, leisure and sports, to upgrade the neighbourhood without gentrifying? What is the meaning and role of the landscape and of the Seine in the ecology and the second life of this neighbourhood?

Georges Seurat Baignade a Asnieres. Sint Anna beach in Antwerp


The studio works as one research lab.

Analysis of the site has been done by the designers of the Olympic village. We re-use and critically evaluate their research to come to our own conclusions (in group, studio)

– We design urban strategies for the second life of the Olympic Infrastructures. (in thematic groups)

– We elaborate on designs that envisage and document the urban strategies in detail (individual)

Students choose their own perspective (architectural, urban design or urban see above)

Timing and output

  • In November we prepare the reflection note by researching the evolution of different Olympic villages. Every student chooses one case study. Knowing that the Olympic village was first introduced in Los Angeles (1932) as a temporary construction that was demolished. It was sophisticated in Berlin in 1936 but turned into a torture camp by the nazi’s. The current idea is to use the Olympic village as a lever for urban renewal (cfr. London, Barcelona…)

California 1932 source unknown Berlin 1936 source unknown

London source unknown

  • The timing depends on the focus the students make: architecture, urban design, urbanism. All three disciplines will be addressed in the individual projects though the focus will differ.
    • Analysis: exploring the site by walking and interviewing, commenting the material available, constructing a group model on 1/500 (4 weeks in group)
    • Concept and strategy: imagining the second life in abstract diagrams and models. We explore different scenario’s and synthesise them in a best option to be explored
    • Draft: a draft of the best option translated in a preliminary design. In all designs the buildings are not just objects. The dialogue between building and the surrounding context (spatial, ecological, social-economic) is essential
    • Mid-review the week before easter. Internal reviewers will be invited.
    • Refine and detail: after the mid-review we elaborate the design strategy
    • Three weeks before the final review: constructing a story board and a bullet structure of the presentation. Refine all drawings and models

This timing is quite general as it depends on the choices the students make and on the evolution of the projects.


Posters on A0 With detailed drawings showing the interaction and dialogue between buildings and context (see above)

  • Reading: How did you read the qualities and characteristics of the site? And how did you use these readings in developing a design strategy?
  • Urgency. What is the urgency ( social, socio-economical, spatial, ecological…) to intervene in the Parisian context?
  • Position: How do you position yourself in addressing the themes revealed in the readings (= strategy)
  • Intervention: a detailed graphic exploration of the architectural- urban-landscape project. Here the continuous ground floor will demonstrate the relation between the interior and the surrounding open spaces.
  • Perspective: make one detailed perspective showing the qualities and characteristics of the project.

This list is a guiding line. The exact out-put depends on the project. The list is limited but the drawings should be detailed.

Models Do present all the models made to come to the final result.

Reflection note: a reflection on the re-use and second life of Olympic infrastructure (started in November)

Logbook bundling the design process in all the sketches and reflections made in the design process.