Frei Otto’s Munich Olympic Stadium: His lasting legacy?

Frei Otto, German architect and structural engineer, died March 9 2015, just days after learning he had won architecture’s highest honor, the Pritzker Prize.

Otto’s collaboration with architect Gunther Behnisch on Munich’s Olympic Stadium was his most well-known project but what will its legacy be? His design for the billowing, transparent glass and cable roof structure partially covers the Olympic Stadium seating and its web-like, dynamic form ingeniously extends out over the surrounding Olympic Park.

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Aerial view of Olympic Stadium roof-covered grandstand. (Photo IMGKID)

Frei Otto brought to Munich his engineer’s expertise in lightweight tensile and membrane structures, beyond what a traditional stadium architect could ever bring, and his inclusion in the project infused Munich Olympic Stadium with its key iconic element.

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Otto’s web-like roof covers the Olympic Stadium and surrounding village. (Photo Waymarking)

What if more design teams encouraged such collaborations, bringing together unique knowledge bases? Qatar World Cup stadiums could use Olafur Eliasson’s ethereal light effects on its stadium village, or Marlins Park could have tapped Jaime Carpenter’s knowledge of glass structures for its modern glass curtain wall.

Thomas Heatherwick and Bjarke Ingels are collaborating on Google’s new Silicon Valley Headquarters (a project that owes much to Otto and Behnisch’ Munich Olympic Stadium); if only such collaborations were planned for our future sporting arenas, then we could truly honor Frei Otto with the sports design legacy he deserves.