An Achievement Of Olympic Proportions

The 1972 Olympic buildings, spectacular in their day and embodying the motto of the Munich Olympics – “The Cheerful Games” – are now to be declared a World Heritage Site. That the architects also had WACKER dispersible polymer powders to thank for making their ambitious plans a reality is a little-known facet of the story.

The Olympic Village in northern Munich: the intelligent-design urban complex ranks among the city’s most sought-after residential areas.

A one-room, 33-square-meter apartment on the 10th floor in Munich’s Olympic Village set a buyer back €195,000 at the beginning of 2018. A steep price for an apartment in one of those typical – and generally unpopular – housing developments of the early 1970s that can hardly be called “villages.” At first glance, visitors see a lot of densely packed, prefabricated concrete slabs. A second look, however, reveals sophisticated urban planning: “Living in the Olympic Village has cult status,” asserts a Munich real estate report. Some 6,000 residents have lived here for many decades – roughly 90 percent of all moves are simply relocations within the Village.

“Living in the Olympic Village has cult status.”

The top-quality cement used for the Olympic buildings – a prestigious project for Germany – still endures after over 40 years.

Like the Olympic Stadium to the south, with its spectacular tent-like roof, Munich’s Olympic Village became a designated historical site in 1997. But for the Olympic Village residents’ association and the Olympic Park World Heritage Campaign, that doesn’t go far enough: they want the Olympic Park, including the stadium and village – described in Bauwelt architectural magazine as the “most significant architectural ensemble” created by the Federal Republic of Germany – to be added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In late 2017, Munich City Council sought expert advice. Nearly all testimonies recommended applying for the status.

Munich has been more successful in repurposing its Olympic venues after the games than most former Olympic host cities. A scenario considered highly unlikely 50 years ago, shortly after the Behnisch und Partner architecture firm won the architectural competition for the Olympic complex. Skeptics even doubted whether the spectacular design made of acrylic glass could be built at all. “It wasn’t just the tent roof – there were also issues with the concrete and mortar that no one had ever faced before,” recalls Karl-Heinz Kranz, who is now 77 years old.

1968 marked both the start of excavation on the Olympic Park and an important year for him personally: Ardex, a construction chemicals manufacturer based in Witten, northwestern Germany, hired Kranz, who was a skilled bricklayer, tiler and master screed layer. Ardex, and Kranz, would later make a small but significant contribution to the construction of the Olympic site – one destined to tremendously expand the scope of the dry-mix mortar industry in the years to come.