The athletes' housing in Stratford for the London 2012 Olympics was designed to a standardised model with an identical internal layout, structure and services for all 2800 homes, creating maximum efficiency for the developer. However, London's bid to house the games had been in part successful because of a commitment to use the infrastructure of the games to create a new urban quarter, and there was discomfort as to whether such standardisation would leave behind a positive urban legacy. In response, the developer instructed their architects to appoint practices as sub-consultants to design façades for the already standardised 'chassis'.
Against this backdrop, Níall McLaughlin Architects was appointed to design a façade to clothe Block N15, a building core developed by Glen Howells Architects. The practice celebrated the paradox at the heart of this commission with a façade arranged as a grid of relief castings, which sample fragments of the Elgin Marbles. The panels were produced from digital scans of the scenes from the original frieze in the British Museum, enlarged and re-cast in concrete.
The research for the design and construction of the façade for the athletes' housing was an attempt to express the dilemmas of architecture associated with modern building culture. The procurement of the Olympic project held up a mirror to these issues. The façade for Block N15 aimed to attest to the premise that the contemporary architect must rely on a form of irony in order to practice. This seems to be an authentic mode of representation for the present day. In conjuring the horsemen on a screen we did not claim that they embodied a better, prelapsarian age; in arranging them within a grid we offered no authority to origins or order. The project aims to ask how an architect today might continue making pieces of the world without a common consensus about what that world should represent.
The façade for Block N15 won the British Precast Concrete Federation Creativity in Concrete Award (2012).