The Richmond Oval

Type of Building
Community & Recreation
33,750 sq. m.
Structural Engineer
Fast + Epp
Construction Manager
Dominion Fairmile Construction
Project Owner
City of Richmond
Wood Supplier
StructureCraft Builders Inc.
Glue-laminated timber (glulam), Lumber, Plywood, Paneling

The architectural design of the Richmond Olympic Oval emanates from several poetic images based in the cultural history of the site and the surrounding geography. The articulation of the Oval roof evolved from the image of the heron, being a native bird in that community. The roof has a gentle curve that peels off on the north side of the facility, emulating the wing of a heron with its individual feather tips extending beyond the base wood truss structure.

Larry Podhora CannonDesign

Project Overview

The Oval is a precedent-setting achievement of wood engineering and construction. It features one of the largest wood roof spans in the world, which was fabricated with hybrid glue-laminated timber-steel arches and 452 WoodWave panels that used wood salvaged from pine beetle-killed forests. 

Located on the bank of the Fraser River in Richmond, immediately south of Vancouver, the Oval housed a four-hundred-metre speed skating track with enough room for eight thousand spectators during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. After the Games, it was converted to use for numerous sports—ice, court, and track and field. The building is arranged on three levels: an underground parking garage, a ground-oriented entry, service, and amenity level, and the vaulted sports hall on the top level. 

Despite its size of more than six football fields, this is architecture set to soar, with its WoodWave roof resembling wing-like curves with individual “feather tips” extending beyond the massive timber structure—a design inspired by the image of a bird, specifically a heron, ready to take flight. The facility is popular and well used by nearby communities and is a must-visit destination facility for the surrounding region.

Wood Use

The structure comprises composite wood-steel arches that span one hundred metres, while between those arches are novel prefabricated WoodWave structural panels made from lumber that’s arranged in a geometric wave pattern. By using standard lumber supplied directly from B.C. mills, including lumber affected by the mountain pine beetle infestation, the facility demonstrates what can be achieved using a simple, sustainable, and abundant material. In addition to using lumber obtained from local forests, wood ceilings and panelling were milled from trees felled on the site.