London's Olympic Village is massive—more than 80 new buildings, ranging from an 80,000-seat stadium to apartments for athletes. But when the 17-day Olympic Games wrap on August 12, all that sprawl will lose its raison d'etre. Rather than birthing a burden—venue upkeep in Beijing following the 2008 Games has been more than $24 million annually—many structures were designed to be modular and adaptable. "Our premise was that we're designing and building for legacy, and, oh yes, we happen to be accommodating the Games first," says Ken Durbin, technical director with CH2M Hill, one of the three project managers for the site. And of all the new venues, none embodies that now-and-later ethos more than Zaha Hadid Architects' 39,692-square-foot aquatic center.
These will contain most of the 17,500 spectators. After the Games, they'll be removed , bringing the facility down to a more manageable 2,500 seats.
To facilitate their eventual removal, the wings were bolted onto the building rather than welded. The 1,400 tons of steel used to make them will be recycled.
The pools are 9 feet deep, per Olympic needs. Since that may be too deep for most Londoners, a floating floor that can be easily lowered or raised was built.
No need to build a broad-cast room in a facility that'll never need it again. Instead of a perch in the rafters, media will be set up outside, in a makeshift office.
Two slots run along the juncture of the wings and the building. When the wings are gone, glass will be inserted  to seal up the newly shrunken center.
The water used to clean the pool filters—which will get a lot of use during the Games—is stored in basement tanks and used for flushing toilets.
A version of this article appeared in the June 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.