by Matthew Bunis and John Shreve
Toronto FC recently hosted the Seattle Sounders in Major League…
“Wembley is the cathedral of football. It is the capital of football and it is the heart of football”
The experience of the supporter is always at the heart of a stadium. Populous’ soccer stadium designs focus on the expression of three key elements: the approach; the discovery; and the intensity of the game. Drawing these factors together helps to bring to life truly unique soccer venues.
Populous has designed iconic and beloved homes for some of the biggest clubs and most passionate fans in the world. With the experience of more than 75 soccer stadiums completed globally, including high-profile projects for the English Premier League, Major League Soccer, Liga MX and Ligue 1, our design approach takes into account the history of the club and city, as well as their traditions and heritage. Each stadium is uniquely designed for the team and its fans, whether it be a 18,000-capacity stadium for a new MLS franchise, or a 61,000 venue for one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
CHALLENGE. The old Wembley Stadium was one of the most famous sporting and entertainment venues in Britain, known the world over for events such as the 1923 FA Cup Final, the 1948 Olympic and Paralympic Games and Live Aid in the summer of ’85. When the FA asked World Stadium Team (Populous and Foster + Partners) to design a replacement for their venerated stadium, the challenge was of course to provide the state of the art facilities needed for the next generation of players, performers and spectators, whilst retaining – or in fact creating – that sense of magic that made Wembley such a special place.
INNOVATION. As well as being an iconic design, the arch supports the 7,000 tonne steel roof structure, eliminating the need for pillars. The seating is designed as a single bowl, which gives every spectator an unobstructed view of the stage or pitch, as well as increasing the intensity of the atmosphere. Retractable panels in the roof allow light and air onto the pitch, maintaining the quality of that hallowed turf.
IMPACT. Wembley hosted the 2011 and 2013 UEFA Champions League Finals, and will host the semi-finals and final of the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament. On the entertainment front, Take That’s record-breaking tour saw over 650,000 tickets sold over 8 sell-out nights in 2011. With its 133m arch piercing the London skyline, Wembley has reinforced its position as the world’s best known and loved football stadium, living up to Pele’s famous quote that “Wembley is the cathedral of football. It is the capital of football and it is the heart of football.”
• The home of English football, Wembley Stadium can also host rugby matches, concerts, American football and has held many other events, including motor sport
• The stadium can hold 90,000 fans. The record for the old stadium would have had health & safety officers quaking in their boots – an estimated 200,000 people crammed in to watch Bolton Wanderers defeat West Ham United 2-0 in the 1924 FA Cup Final
• The Wembley Arch is not just a design aesthetic, but is an essential part of the design to support the 7,000 tonne steel roof structure
• To allow for optimum grass growth, the roof can retract on the west, south and east sides to allow better light and air at pitch level
• There are 107 steps in the trophy presentation route – the old stadium was said to have had 39 steps up to the Royal Box, in the middle of the North Stand
• If you felt so inclined, you could fit 25,000 double-decker London buses inside Wembley Stadium
• Special acoustic studies were undertaken to allow the design team to finely tune the sound quality of the new stadium, maintaining the traditional ‘Wembley roar’
CHALLENGE. BBVA Compass Stadium is designed to be the core of Houston’s East Downtown Redevelopment Plan. With a 22,000 seat capacity, its primary use is as a soccer stadium. However it can also accommodate lacrosse, rugby or concerts. To create something specifically as an architectural icon is a challenge in itself; Populous additionally had to design the stadium within the constraints of an extremely tight construction budget of $60M.
INNOVATION. Bringing our vast experience of European football stadia to bear on this project, Populous has created a unique form of soccer-specific stadium for the US market. The continuous exterior surface surrounding the stadium creates a dynamic sense of enclosure and intimate soccer atmosphere that marks a new precedent for American soccer stadia.
IMPACT. The stadium’s tessellated exterior defines a bold architectural statement in the Houston skyline, while the simple and common materials used in its construction reference the area’s industrial heritage. More broadly, BBVA Compass Stadium will have a huge impact and influence on the emerging USA Major League Soccer stadia. Sports Authority Kenny Friedman says, “I think the Dynamo are going to have a competitive advantage because the fans will be so close they’ll be in essence an extra player on the field.”
CHALLENGE. Tottenham Hotspur set the challenge of revolutionising modern stadia design. As part of a major regeneration of the area, the Club’s vision is to create a thriving and exceptional sports, leisure and entertainment destination in Tottenham; one that delivers a world-class venue capable of hosting two elite football codes; facilities with benefits for the local community; and to create the most intense and atmospheric place to watch football in Europe.
INNOVATION. In a world first, the stadium will include a retractable natural turf surface for Football combined with an astroturf pitch for American Football (NFL) underneath, providing the preferred surface for both codes within the same stadium. This innovation also provides the change in height that enables the front row of the seating bowl to have perfect sightlines for both codes. The inclusion of the synthetic pitch also adds to the overall flexibility of the stadium, allowing the Club to host a range of sports, concerts and events throughout the year.
The stadium will include a large single-tier, ‘home end’ stand of 17,000 seats – the largest of its type in the UK – creating an intense atmosphere during matches. Combined with the 5-storey atrium space in the south stand, unique in terms of design and scope in the UK, this will provide an unequalled level of facilities for all supporters, a place to gather and focus home support before and after matches, forming the heartbeat of the new stadium.
The east stand includes a double-height banquet hall, which will be used for conference events and will be supported by the introduction of a new 180-bedroom hotel in the south-west corner of the site. As well as being a unique destination for fans and visitors, the hotel will also be a training and educational facility for local young people.
A large open public square to the south of the stadium, equivalent in size to London’s Trafalgar Square and operated by the THFC Foundation, will allow for a range of sporting and community activities throughout the year. Creating a new hub for the community, the stadium will sit at the heart of the 20-year Northumberland Development Project, and will act as the catalyst for the transformation of the area.
IMPACT. The full stadium masterplan designed by Populous also includes the Tottenham Experience (an integrated retail and museum facility, incorporating the Grade II-listed Warmington House); a 180 bed hotel; visitor attractions including a Sky Walk to the roof of the stadium; an Extreme Sports Building (with the tallest indoor climbing wall in the world); a Community Health Centre; Commercial Space and 579 residential units. Fully integrated into the existing public transport plans, these facilities will all be linked by a new landscaped public realm, with outdoor play areas, cafes and recreational spaces that will bring the area to life during non-match days. The completed project will mean that Tottenham Hotspur will support 3,500 jobs in the local area.
Following a ten year partnership agreement with the NFL, the new stadium will host a minimum of two American football games per year, every year, in addition to the Premier League fixtures.
CHALLENGE. Children’s Mercy Park, home of Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City, was a second chance to make a first impression. After 15 years of playing games in relative anonymity and in inappropriately sized venues, the new stadium presented the chance for Sporting Kansas City to re-define their organization and set a path toward long-term sustained growth and success. Ownership was clear about one thing: their passion for innovation drove an interest well beyond creating just another Major League Soccer stadium – they wanted something that would radically change the notion of soccer stadium design.
Conceptual, logistical and most of all, aspirational challenges inspired a design solution that established a new benchmark for mid‐sized stadiums in the United States, if not the world. The 340,000 square foot, $200 million stadium is anchored in the heart of a 400-acre mixed-use development and is situated in a way that both soccer and event attendees aid in the development’s success. The stadium is bound on all four sides by major traffic and utility corridors and is further complicated with a 40-foot elevation change across the stadium footprint.
INNOVATION. Based on the concept of stop-motion photography, the design of Children’s Mercy Park seeks to capture movement and motion by celebrating both the body and the ball.
The building’s exterior of repeating angular metal fins represent ‘the body,’ or, translated, the players’ athleticism and movement on the field. The fins align over the length of the building facade to recreate that appearance of animated movement. The signature 145,000 square-foot roof canopy is derived from the long floating arc of ‘the soccer ball’ as it soars across the field; from high to low point the roof arcs from 65 feet to 95 feet. The roof’s polycarbonate panels create an intimate, yet grand scale while amplifying crowd noise. Its material was specifically selected to allow sunlight to penetrate through to the pitch.
The building’s interior design expanded on the body and the ball concept by extrapolating the notion of angles. Hexagonal and pentagon shapes and forms, along with bold colors were used throughout Children’s Mercy Park. Sporting KC’s desire to create a fan-oriented experience was brought to life through various club spaces where fans can interact with players, suites with common lounges and rolling floor-to-ceiling doors, and a year-round sports bar designed with input from the soccer team’s most passionate fans – a first of its kind in Major League Soccer. In addition to hosting soccer, the stadium features a removable seating section in the seating bowl’s south end that, when removed, will reveal a stage that can be used for end-stage concerts.
IMPACT. Children’s Mercy Park incorporates the latest in sports technology aiding in fan connectivity and player development. The reaction to the venue has been universal: Children’s Mercy Park is iconic, fun, intimate, authentic and awe‐inspiring. In bringing to bear all of Populous’ global soccer knowledge, the team’s goals of a completely authentic stadium were realized. In short, it is simply a world‐class venue designed with the passion of the game it houses.
CHALLENGE. The 52,500-seat Suncorp Stadium, set on the edge of the Queensland capital CBD, is a modern dedicated rectangular pitch stadium. The nostalgia and history of world renowned rugby grounds is legendary. Suncorp Stadium, known locally as ‘the Cauldron’ was one of the few rugby grounds in Australia which could compete internationally in terms of atmosphere, but it needed modernizing. The challenge was to redevelop and modernize the venue on an existing site, which is also part of highly residential neighborhood. Populous designed the stadium to fit the contours of the site and suppressed the structure of the massive stadium within its neighborhood setting. The horizontal roof plane diminishes the scale of the building as well as providing a means of enclosing noise and light within the building. The sports lighting itself is also designed to minimize light spill into the surrounding neighborhoods, the lighting outside the stadium is low impact and a service road for heavy vehicles is located beneath the stadium to minimize disruption to local roads.
The venue, itself, is the most intimate large rugby stadium in Australia. Spectators are only six meters from the sideline at the closest point and this close proximity and colosseum bowl design ensures the intimacy and atmosphere of the ‘Cauldron’ has been developed to a new level.
The stadium also shares the site with the historical Christ Church and memorial graveyard. An integral part of the design was to incorporate the Church into the stadium precinct.
INNOVATION. In addition to preserving the atmosphere and creating a 21st century venue on the existing site, Suncorp Stadium has incorporated innovative design features that reflect a sub-tropical climate and outdoor lifestyle, adding to a distinctively Queensland atmosphere. Features include the low floating roof, timber screens and verandas containing open-air bars.
IMPACT. The integration of Suncorp Stadium with the city of Brisbane was seen as fundamental to its success. A series of new pedestrian and transport infrastructure routes have been developed to link the stadium back to the city so that it is not isolated. The stadium is only a kilometer from the city, but it has traditionally been perceived as being a long way out for pedestrian traffic, due to the obstacles caused by major arterial roads. The development of the stadium has been done in conjunction with an integrated transport strategy that improves public transport access to the stadium and is focused on encouraging patrons either to walk or use public transport.
The stadium also provided Brisbane with the capacity to attract major sporting and entertainment events that may have bypassed the city in the past. Since its opening in 2003, the Stadium has played host to games of the Rugby World Cup, annual State of Origin matches and concerts from Robbie Williams, The Police, Andre Rieu, U2 and Jon Bon Jovi.
by Matthew Bunis and John Shreve
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