Menu Close

Remembering the 2016 Summer Olympics, Designed with Vectorworks

July 23 marks the beginning of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. And although it is taking place a year after its intended start, anticipation is at a fever pitch.

Like a prism bending light, the opening ceremony harnesses all that anticipation and turns it into something beautiful. The closing ceremony, on the other hand, is a moment to reflect on the athletic excellence that has taken place over the past month. These ceremonies also serve as a great way to celebrate the host city. Celebrating culture through design is something that really excites us.

Getty Images Richard Heathcote1

Image credit: Getty Images - Richard Heathcole

With the 2020 Summer Olympics finally here, we thought it would be a great time to look back at the spectacular ceremony design from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. We find the design of this project — and how it overcame certain challenges — to be a perfect example of the power that comes with using 3D design software.

Designing the 2016 Olympic Ceremonies 

In preparation for the massive event, the Organizing Committee of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games held an international competition to select the best companies in the world to be responsible for the executive and artistic production of the Olympic and Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies.

Eventually, P&G Cenografia was hired to execute the most important scenic element of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games: Box City, as nicknamed by its creators. For this, they trusted Vectorworks.

P&G was responsible for the construction detailing of Box City, the development and production of prototypes for systems and materials, the testing for and identification of failures or inadequacies, and the presentation of technical and operational solutions for the construction of the scenery. P&G was also responsible for the operation of Box City during rehearsals, as well as the ceremony.

Box City

Conceived by the award-winning British scenographer Es Devlin and production designer and scenographer Daniela Thomas, the idea of the Box City was simultaneously simple and challenging. As the name suggests, the scenery consisted of several boxes (or scenic cells) that simulated a city, acting as a multi-level stage where the dancers climbed to perform choreography.

The internal structure of the boxes, which allowed for circulation of the dancers, artists, and professionals, was made of box trusses and structured frames covered by interchangeable "skins" of printed, vinyl canvas.

4_evento 3_m

There were, however, some challenges with Box City. The boxes needed a structure sturdy enough to support a group of performers jumping and dancing on top of them. A mechanism had to be present for exchanging the skins. And, the mosaic formed by the 73 boxes had to be seen with little-to-no optical deformation to attendees in the stadium. All these difficulties were compounded with the natural tension that comes from planning an event that will be broadcast live to billions of viewers around the globe.

The entire construction process was carried out in P&G workshops under the direction and supervision of the experienced construction manager, Julio Gomes.

“It was a huge task,” remarks Gomes. “We received around 300 technical drawings and details in Vectorworks files from the team of architects and designers, which were immediately analyzed and then printed and distributed to each department in the workshop. About 300 workers (among them carpenters, mechanists, painters, electricians, and covering specialists) translated the technical drawings into reality.”

Vectorworks — 3D Interfacing Between Design and Olympic Celebration

Considering the above, it would take careful planning to execute the manufacturing and assembly of structures — careful planning best performed by a 3D design software with rapid modeling and detailed documentation features. That’s where Vectorworks came in.

P&G Cenografia began using Vectorworks in 1996 back when we were still called MiniCad. Designer and Creative Director Paulo Neves recalls, “[Vectorworks] allowed us to both illustrate projects, as well as to make technical drawings in a more intuitive way . . . Vectorworks won us over by allowing us to generate precise drawings through the same, easy vector drawing techniques.”

Altamir Júnior and Omar Muro both experienced stage designers coordinated the assembly of Box City with Vectorworks. According to Muro, with the high volume of work and the tight schedule, the software’s short learning curve was vital. The trainees and architects who had never used it before were able to learn very quickly. "In less than a week they were already drawing and detailing in Vectorworks," explains Muro.

Screen Shot 2021-07-13 at 12.17.22 PM

Image credit: P&G Cenografia

Júnior assisted every minute of the assembly process, from initial studies to the final delivery. "One of the biggest challenges at Box City was combining an artfully conceptualized design with the reality of manufacturing,” explains Júnior. “The convenience and productivity of being able to model in 3D and getting detailed technical drawings without having to change programs was an essential factor. In the specific case of Box City, due to the complexity of the project and the interferences, both with the architecture of the stadium, as well as with the scenic elements, it would have been impossible to work without a perfect 2D/3D integration."

Celebrate Creativity with Vectorworks

The celebrations shouldn’t just be reserved for this summer in Tokyo. At Vectorworks, we want to celebrate your creativity!

We believe your design software should offer the freedom to follow your imagination wherever it may lead. That is why we are offering a free, 30-day free trial of Vectorworks. Click here to start your trial.

If you are still in school and searching for that all-in-one solution, we have created programs that provide you the deep understanding and knowledge of the platform. Click here for more information.

Make the most of your software experience with Vectorworks University. Take classes online, sign up for one of our webinars, or schedule a training session where we will walk you through the software. Beginners and experienced alike gain new skills, fine-tune workflows and dive into all you can do with Vectorworks.