Designing an Olympic ice rink infographic

February 04, 2006

This infographic for Sarasota Herald-Tribune dissects the intricate process of constructing Olympic ice rinks. The detailed graphic, later modified for the web using HTML, CSS, and SVG, provides a deep dive into the engineering nuances behind these frozen arenas.

Ice Rink Construction

Dave Wescott is one of America’s top ice-rink technicians. He has overseen the construction and maintenance of rinks used for hockey and figure-skating competitions in several Winter Olympics. The following infographic explains his construction process.

Human scale123451ICE LAYERS Technicians build up thin layers of ice on a frozen foundation. They use water mixed with white paint to make some initial layers. On this white ice, they paint graphics. Then, they continue layering with clear ice until the surface reaches a thickness of about an inch. It could require as many as 50 layers.2FOUNDATION Ice rinks for the Olympics are often set up temporarily and have foundations of frozen sand.3 INSULATION Insulation creates a vapor barrier between the heated sub-floor and the frozen foundation.4SUB-FLOOR A network of pipes heats the ground beneath the layer of insulation; this prevents permafrost, which would cause the ice above to heave.CHILLERCOMPRESSORANTIFREEZEEXPANSION VALVEFREON GAS5 COOLING SYSTEM A network of pipes circulates antifreeze through the foundation of frozen sand. BASIC REFRIGERATION The antifreeze circulating in pipes underneath the rink carries heat to a chiller. Inside the chiller, it brings this heat close by a separate network of pipes that contain Freon. Due to proximity and a temperature differential, the heat from the antifreeze transfers to the Freon. The antifreeze, now at a much colder temperature, leaves the chiller. The Freon also leaves the chiller, with the heat. It passes through a compressor , then an expansion valve. This process of compression and expansion rapidly dissipates the heat from the gas.
Jacob Benison, Information Graphic, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 04 February 2006 (Print Edition)

About the Project

  • Research: Understanding the intricacies of an Olympic ice rink construction, from its dimensions to the materials used, was possible because of Dave Wescott’s generously sharing his time and expertise. Interviews with Wescott laid the foundation for a factual and accurate representation.
  • Sketching and Ideation: Armed with a wealth of information, the next step was to sketch out some concepts, which allowed me to explore different layout possibilities and visual styles. Sketching also helped determine the infographic’s flow and the key elements to include, such as the various stages of construction.
  • 3D Modeling and Rendering: To bring depth and realism to the infographic, 3D modeling was employed. The rendering process added a lifelike quality, making the infographic informative and visually engaging.
  • Vector Graphics and Layout Design: Additional elements, created as vector graphics, supplemented the 3D models. Vector graphics ensure scalability without loss of quality. Arranging these elements into an elegant layout required a careful balance between information and aesthetics. The structure of the final composition guides the viewer through the construction process.
  • HTML, CSS, and SVG Markup: Taking this project to the next level, I adapted the infographic for web use in this portfolio. Doing so involved converting static elements into responsive components using HTML, CSS, and SVG markup.

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