- Project Name
- Olympic Aquatic Center (McAuley Aquatic Center)
- Stanley, Love-Stanley
- International Olympic Committee
- Project Types
- Project Scope
- New Construction
- Year Completed
- Project Status
This project was featured in the October 2021 issue of ARCHITECT.
In a 1990 upset, Atlanta was selected to host the centennial Olympic Games over the likes of Tokyo, Toronto, and Athens, Greece. Amid media criticism of Georgia’s Confederate past and of the city’s then-second-tier status, Atlanta touted its history of civil rights and racial harmony and secured the bid.
During the planning process, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games designated Georgia Tech as host to the Olympic Village and several events. The university strongly advocated for ACOG to award construction and design contracts to people of color, propelling the local firm of Stanley Love-Stanley into position to secure the Aquatic Center. Located adjacent to the 1977 Student Athletic Center, the Aquatic Center was an outdoor stadium with capacity for 14,900 spectators. The architects incorporated elements—including variable speed recirculation, a moveable floor, wide gutters, and two bulkheads—to give swimmers a competitive edge in the pool, which remains one of the fastest in the world.
A sweeping roof supported by sloping trusses spanned the width of the Aquatic Center, creating uninterrupted views for spectators. A temporary 4,000-seat space was also built to host the water polo games. With the exception of a minor truss collapse in the months leading to the center’s opening, the project was widely acclaimed.
The project brought the careers of firm co-founders Ivenue Love-Stanley, FAIA, NOMA, and William Stanley III, FAIA, NOMAC, to full circle. In 1972, William Stanley was Georgia Tech’s first African American architecture graduate. Five years later, Love-Stanley was the institute’s first female African American architecture graduate. Their chance meeting on campus led to marriage and then the founding of Stanley Love-Stanley in 1983, one of a handful of Black-owned architecture firms in the Southeast.
While the firm had prior experience designing natatoriums, the Aquatic Center presented an opportunity to design a high-profile, iconic structure and leave a physical mark on the co-founders’ alma mater. “Seldomly, a firm like ours is involved to design a center of this magnitude,” Stanley says. The firm’s Olympic Games projects, which also included the Eighth Street Apartments for athletes, became a catalyst for more higher education commissions across the Southeast.
Following the Olympic Games, the Aquatic Center was remodeled and expanded to include a state-of-the-art recreation facility, with additional space created by suspending a floor over the pool. By 2004, the center was fully enclosed and its seating capacity reduced to 1,950. It was also connected to Georgia Tech’s Student Athletic Center. In 2016, the facility was renamed the Coach Herb McAuley Aquatic Center.