Spruce produced by Isojoen Saha featured in the landmark of the Paris 2024 Olympics

The new Aquatics Centre in Paris is a symbol of the Olympics. The aquatics center is made mainly of wood, and only Nordic spruce was suitable as the material.

The Aquatics Centre is the only new sports facility built for the Paris Olympics and a symbol of the Games. It is supported by 90-meter-long beams constructed from slow-growing spruce from the north. The wood material for the roof beams came from two sawn timber producers in Finland, one of which was Isojoen Saha. Several hundred cubic meters of sawn timber were sent from Isojoki to Paris. The first batches of spruce were shipped in early 2022.

In an article by Tekniikka & Talous magazine titled “Puusta pitkään – Pariisin olympialaisten maamerkkiin kelpasi vain suomalainen puu” (Wood for the long haul – Only Finnish wood was suitable for the Paris Olympics landmark) (June 14, 2024), our French export partner Timo Laine (Sapinus Oy) and our CEO Esa Hakamäki were interviewed. Laine states that the strength of Finnish spruce is its asset, as it can be used to produce C24 and C30 strength-graded sawn timber. The raw material was sent specially dried to 10-12 percent moisture content, making it ready for gluing. According to the T&T article, the glulam beams were manufactured by the French company Mathis, which first planed the wood, finger-jointed it into long lamellae, and glued them into uniform beams.

Wide-dimension timber

Esa Hakamäki states in the T&T article (June 14, 2024):

“The customer wanted wide dimensions. If the basic products are, for example, two-by-fours, now we were talking about double the width and more. Once the order was confirmed, we selected logging sites where the wood raw material was sturdy,” Hakamäki explains.

“When we knew the strength and dimensional requirements, the machine vision-based sorting picked the pieces that met those requirements from the production line. Slow-growing Nordic wood is naturally strong and visually beautiful. It is excellently suited for long-span and visible structures,” Hakamäki continues.

Unique roof structure with record-breaking span

According to the T&T article, the roof structure of the Aquatics Centre is globally unique, as such a long span has never been made from glulam beams before. No two beams in the roof are the same; each one is unique. The vertical supports at the ends of the hall, on which the roof was installed, are also made of glulam beams. Installing the roof beams took seven months.

The goal was to design the roof to be as thin and light as possible. The inward-curving shape minimizes the hall’s volume, making air heating and humidity control cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Since the wood was desired to be visible indoors, technical equipment such as ventilation ducts were placed on the roof.

In the center of the building is a ten-meter diving tower. At that point, an additional five meters of unobstructed space, a kind of bulge, has been added to the roof.

The aquatics center was designed by two architectural firms, the Dutch Venhoeven CS and the French Ateliers 2/3/4. According to architect Laure Mériaud from Ateliers 2/3/4, many people don’t believe that the load-bearing structures of the Aquatics Centre are made of wood.

“When visitors come here, they say that the wood is just covering the metal. But that’s not true; only the joints are metal,” she says in the T&T article and on the Paris Olympics website.
(T&T June 14, 2024)

Aquatics Centre

  • The only new building made solely for sports at the Paris Olympics
  • Developer: Métropole du Grand Paris (Greater Paris metropolitan area)
  • Main contractor: Bouygues Bâtiment lle-de-France
  • Main designers: Venhoeven CS (Cécilia Gross) and Ateliers 2/3/4 (Laure Mériaud)
  • Structural design: Schlaich Bergermann Partner
  • Timber construction: Mathis
  • Amount of wood used: 2,700 m³ 
  • Building area: 20,000 m²
  • Opening: May 4, 2024


    The source for our news is an article published in Tekniikka & Talous magazine, issue 14.6.2024, pages 12-13: Title in English “Wood for the long haul – Only Finnish wood was suitable for the Paris Olympics landmark”. Journalist: Pekka Numminen

    Photo credits:

    Salem Mostefaoui, Paris 2024