Inspired by design

Design Challenges


Students making models

Students presenting their own designs. Image: Laura Broderick/RIBA London. 

An important part of the 2012 Games is the Olympic Park itself – the landscaping and structures that connect the venues. This section offers ideas for challenges inspired by design in the Olympic Park.

Architects work to what is known as a design brief – the instructions for the building. These will include information about the site, budget and what the client wants to achieve. Often the architect works with the client to develop the detail of the brief.

In this section you will find two options to help you set architectural design challenges – the first gives you ideas for quick design briefs and the second for longer-term projects.

The scale of architecture can be a bit daunting, but challenges don't need to be overly complex – you can set simple fun briefs with strong learning objectives for your students.

Some top tips:

  • Don't worry about technical knowledge - there is a lot more to the design of buildings than construction detail 
  • Think about your local area - by reflecting on the character of places and the impact they have on us you’ll come up with lots of ideas
  • Don't start from scratch - encourage students to apply the same stages they would use in a product design brief  

If you follow these tips you will be surprised at the outcomes and quality of work produced.

Option 1


Rolling Bridge, Paddington Basin

Rolling Bridge, Paddington Basin, London. Image: James Whitaker / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Choose from two shorter design challenges, inspired by structures in the Olympic Park, and invite students to design a new footbridge or landmark for their local area.

To help inspire students there are two presentations of images from RIBApix, a database of exceptional and unique images from the RIBA collections.

You could use these challenges as part of a technology enrichment day or careers event, and invite a local architect to help establish the detail of the brief and guide your students. You can use RIBA's online practice directory to search for practices in your local area.






You can also download our careers in architecture booklet, Think Architecture, to help you answer any questions about becoming an architect.


Option 2


East Beach Cafe, Littlehampton

East Beach Cafe, Littlehampton, West Sussex. Image: Richard Chivers / RIBA Library Photographs Collection 

The Olympic Park will continue to change up to the 2012 Games starting and then in the years after the games have finished. The future plans for the park are referred to as legacy.

Some of the buildings themselves will change, for example the aquatics centre will lose its extra stands, or be dismantled for relocation or recycling.

Taking on board all the information, activities and tips from the previous Inspired by Design downloads you should now be able to set students a more in-depth challenge. Why not set an architectural design brief about this legacy, as a student project over a term say?

The Olympic Park Legacy Company established a design competition for legacy plans in the Olympic Park. You can read about this here.

Taking this as inspiration the suggestions below could become design briefs suitable for the following key stages:

  • 11-14 years – playground and/or skate park
  • 14-16 years – café
  • 16-19 years – visitors' centre

See the 'Legacy projects download' attachment for full supporting information and reference material.  




It is possible to create curriculum extension activities from the Inspired by Design challenges. If you want to explore humanities subjects (geography, history, citizenship) gather images and set a quiz for students about important global landmarks e.g. St Paul’s Cathedral, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, Sydney Opera House and the Colosseum. Alternatively a footbridge challenge could be extended to offer more in-depth STEM learning with links to maths and physics.

Inspired by Design has showcased a selection of the architecture in the Olympic Park. If you chose to set a longer term legacy challenge take some time to also explore other art and architectural projects on the site. For example in the athletes’ village Niall McLaughlin Architects have created a sculptural façade for a housing block – by decorating concrete panels with reliefs cast from the Elgin Marbles.


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