Make it Loud: Designing for Atmosphere at New Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
May 31, 2019
The new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium leverages cutting-edge design and engineering to create one of the loudest matchday atmospheres in the world
With Populous under instructions from Tottenham Hotspur Chairman Daniel Levy to create a stadium that would be even noisier than the club’s previous home, White Hart Lane, the design does everything it can to facilitate an incredible sense of place, belonging, and atmosphere.
“Daniel was obsessed with what the atmosphere was going to be like,” explains Tom Jones, Lead Architect. “White Hart Lane was known as having one of the best atmospheres in the Premier League and he didn’t want to lose that.” In researching the stadium design, Mr Levy and Populous Managing Director Christopher Lee travelled the world, visiting hundreds of sports grounds. Those that most impressed with their atmosphere had a common feature: large, uninterrupted swathes of general admission seating where the most passionate fans came together to sing and chant.
To achieve this effect at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Populous’ designs incorporate all of the stadium’s premium facilities into the East and West stands, creating two huge blocks of general admission seating in the North and South stands that become the driving force behind the atmosphere on match days. This seating configuration, although simple in principle, required a major reimagining of traditional stadium design concepts.
“Most modern stadiums have four levels,” explains Jones. “We created an extremely complex 10-level section that includes a basement for parking, three levels of premium facilities all facing out onto the pitch, plus the amazing Sky Lounges at the top which look out over the pitch one way and across London the other. We were able to achieve this without compromising any of the high-end features in the new stadium.”
“A 17,500-seat megaphone”
By confining the premium facilities to the East and West stands, it also meant that initial designs for the South Stand could be revised to create an intimidating single-tier ‘home end’, taking inspiration from Dortmund’s world-famous ‘Yellow Wall’ and Anfield’s ‘Kop’ end. The largest of its kind in the country, the South Stand seats 17,500 home fans in a sweeping rise engineered to enhance the natural acoustics of the stand and project a deafening ‘wall of noise’ on match days.
Populous considered the design as they would a concert arena, using acoustic engineers to advise on the best materials and construction methods to amplify the roar of the crowd. The sound is reflected back into the stadium bowl by specially designed panelling fitted to the underside of the roof, building a cacophony of noise as the chanting spreads around the stadium.
“What we effectively have here is a 17,500-seat megaphone,” says Jones.
Up close and personal
The next challenge, and crucially important to Mr Levy, was to place every fan as close to the action as possible. To this end, the stands are inclined 35 degrees — the steepest angle UK regulations allow — creating a seating bowl that, despite its large capacity, feels compact and intimate. Additionally, the perimeter area around the pitch has been minimised, with no more than eight metres between the first row of seating and the playing surface anywhere in the ground. Front row seating in the South Stand is closer to the goal line (4.98m) than in any stand at any other Premier League stadium.
“I genuinely believe that Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is the best stadium in the world to watch football in,” says Christopher Lee. “I realise that’s a very, very big statement, but I really do not think that there is another stadium on the planet that has been designed to enhance the atmosphere on match days to the extent that the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has.
Header image © Tottenham Hotspur