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Perspective speaks with John Pauline, design principal at HASSELL, Hong Kong

by Leona Liu on Feb 2, 2017 in Architecture
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Pauline says that the Watercube, the National Aquatic Centre project in Beijing, was the
most impressive project he has worked on (All images courtesy of HASSELL)

Pauline says that the Watercube, the National Aquatic Centre project in Beijing, was the most impressive project he has worked on (All images courtesy of HASSELL)

Having played an instrumental role in six consecutive Olympics, John Pauline, design principal at international practice HASSELL, chats with us about his passion for sports design

John Pauline, design principal at noted design firm HASSELL, has worked for the Olympic Games committees for Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London and Rio. The Olympic design veteran was involved in the Istanbul 2020 Olympic bid, Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games Aquatic Center, Beijing 2008 Athletes Village, Bengbu Sports Arena, CGNPG Theatre and Arena, Daya Bay, Dalian Sports Center and the Olympic Master Plan & Aquarium, Rio de Janeiro.

John Pauline

John Pauline

You were responsible for so many significant projects. What's the most impressive one you've worked on?
I suppose it's hard to top the Watercube, the National Aquatic Centre project in Beijing, because of its sheer scale and cultural importance. It's been 10 years since I moved to China and I rarely meet a local who is unaware of the project and doesn't have something to say about it — thankfully it's usually something positive!

It was a great experience to be involved in such a significant project, and to be involved from the first sketches, right through to sitting with my family inside the building as a spectator at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Working for the Olympic Games committees for Sydney, Athens, Beijing, London and now Rio, are you concerned about sustainability in sports design?
Sustainability is always central to the approach of every building we design at HASSELL, as it's embedded in our process. It's a natural integrated outcome of our thinking, rather than a bolt-on approach, which is almost always superficial.

Some designs, such as the Watercube, are able to be driven towards a very dynamic visual outcome, while other designs are much more subtle in terms of how the aspects of sustainability are expressed. Both outcomes are equally valid, as long as the thinking and smart sustainability elements are fully integrated.

The Copper Box Arena used for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London

The Copper Box Arena used for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London

We're curious — what's your favourite sport?
I've been a keen fan of track and field events my whole life, and as an Australian, I have a particular love of competitive swimming, therefore when choosing hotels to stay, one with a pool is a big bonus. I'm also a keen rugby union fan, which has allowed me to travel to some great international stadia, both as a spectator and for design inspiration.

If you weren't an architect, what profession or industry would you have liked to be in?
There's never been another profession I've considered, even when I was very young. I'm really lucky to have found a career that I truly enjoy so much.

You've lived and worked in Australia, Indonesia, USA, Qatar, Greece, UK, Japan, Brazil, Russia, Korea and China and travelled extensively… That's a lot of places.
The more you travel, the more you appreciate the huge diversity between cultures. I'm very fortunate to have spent extended periods of time in many countries, which has given me a deeper level of appreciation of those places.

Some countries, like China, take many years to understand and constantly challenge your thinking. Hong Kong will always be a very special place because it's given me so many great memories, but ultimately Sydney will
always be home, no matter how long I am away.

This is an excerpt from the "A Design Champion” article from the January/February 2017 issue of Perspective magazine.

To continue reading, get your copy of Perspective.

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