Shaping Cities of the Future

October 19, 2023 / James Pearce

Creating a destination of the future requires the vision to deliver sustainable and integrated environments where buildings are embedded within a city’s fabric.

At Populous, we create world class buildings for sports, leisure and entertainment and are deeply interested in their effect and influence upon their surrounding context and how they act as a catalyst for vibrancy, diversity and regeneration within cities.

For 40 years Populous has been designing places that draw people together – from the world’s most-loved stadia and arenas to entire sporting precincts and community venues including Kai Tak Sports Park in Hong Kong, Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Nanjing Sports Park in China, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle and the world’s next largest city shaping project, Jamsil Sports MICE Complex in Seoul, South Korea.

Populous Senior Principal James Pearce said these large-scale social infrastructure projects have transformed their cities and the communities they serve.

“We have seen first-hand how these large civic buildings provide innovative, urban solutions to cities and how they contribute to their success, community connection and sustainability into the future.”

“We know that for precincts and venues to thrive long-term, they need to become part of the social fabric and be integrated into the every day,” Pearce said.

Speaking at this year’s Asia Pacific Cities Summit which had the overarching theme, “Shaping Cities for our Future”, attendees, partners and presenters were asked to exchange knowledge on how cities are increasingly recognised as key influencers, connectors and contributors to the global economy.

As a key driver in the design and architecture of large-scale city shaping projects, Pearce presented three key themes on how venues bring people together and help define our cities.

  • Venues of Place that allow the community and context to guide the design;
  • Venues for All which create an inclusive and welcoming place that are an intrinsic part of the city fabric;
  • Venues for Life are about designing for now but also embracing how they will create long-term social value for the next 50 years and beyond.

When it comes to Venues of Place, there is not a ‘one size fits all’ for these projects as every city and precinct is unique.

“In that unique design approach, it is a must to connect people to their place and to each other,” Pearce explains.

“By deeply considering the context and opportunities available during the initial design stages, you can create sustainable bespoke venues that serve the community into the future.”

“Kai Tak Sports Park is a community-led precinct with connection-oriented design decisions, retail activations and a 700m long Sports Avenue that connects visitors to the heart of the neighbourhood to the Main Stadium, a range of facilities and beyond to Victoria Harbour.

“In London, our design of Wembley Stadium was about reimagining an icon that both acknowledged its history and defined a new place for its 100-year-old fan history to celebrate globally. Similarly, the O2 Arena utilised an existing structure, but it was about its new life delivering much great flexibility for events and activities to service a community going forward,” Pearce said.

Venues for All looks at how a place is always in use; not just for events, but where people interact in other passive and active ways.

“Designing for the many demographically diverse user groups, both now and in the future, ensures venues are places for gathering and connection at all times while being accessible for all. Our experience across venues and major events allows our design teams to create spaces that are exciting precincts for hundreds of thousands of people during major events but also, welcoming, active places for the local community to enjoy throughout the year.

“Kai Tak Sports Park has learnt from many past projects and maximised passive and informal gatherings around the stadium, bedding itself within a parkland setting and supporting connections with nature.

Some of those past projects where key learnings have been passed on includes Nanjing Sporks Park in China from 2005 and Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, which opened in 2003.

When designing the master plan for Nanjing, Populous firstly considered the venue’s legacy, which was for the long-term development of the city. Now, 18 years on, the modern high rise residential and commercial buildings have densified around it and the sports park has literally become the central core of a new city.

“Suncorp Stadium was designed with the aim of creating a world-class venue that resonated with its location and history. Its success over the past 20 years has helped to spark an urban renewal of the area and create a place of celebration; a true legacy for Brisbane,” Pearce said.

Lastly, Venues for Life are designed to be adaptable and flexible to adjust to the changing needs of their city. When successful, they can account for future development and expansion, beyond the venue.

“Venues for life is about designing for the needs of the city and its population, embracing how technology and development will change the way we live.

“Climate Pledge Arena is a sustainability focused venue that was adapted to host the latest technology. The London 2012 Olympic Games main stadium was designed as a venue to host a major event but was always about creating an enduring legacy. As the lead architecture firm on this project, Populous anticipated the future needs of the city and the community to deliver new infrastructure and public open space.

“In Seoul South Korea, Jamsil Sports MICE Complex will transform beyond the existing venues and the Seoul ‘88 Olympic Games legacy, to a new master plan that meets evolving needs with a stunning new global destination of sports, culture and events for the city,” Pearce said.

City shaping and placemaking within a city relies on creating active precincts and hosting memorable events that connects local communities and visitors alike.

Just this past week, Populous was very proud to have participated in our 15th APCS Summit in Brisbane and now we’re excited to help commence a new city shaping event as founding partners of TheStadiumBusiness Asia and Ticketing Asia, as they are held for the first time in Hong Kong this week.

Joining major industry events in cities across the Asia Pacific and globally, play an important role in our work: as it is through listening, observing and collaborating closely with governments, venue operators and the events that take place inside them that we discover new ways to capture and amplify the character of a place for the fans and the community.

  • Kai Tak Sports Park, Hong Kong
  • Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane Australia
  • Nanjing Sports Park, China
  • Tottenham-hotspur-stadium-opening-night
    Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London UK
  • Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle USA
  • Jamsil Sports MICE Complex, Seoul South Korea
  • Wembley Stadium, London UK
  • The o2 Arena, Loondon UK
  • London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games
Meet the author

James Pearce

Senior Principal, Senior Architect / Brisbane


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