Tomorrow’s Together: The Final Results
December 18, 2015
As a global practice, Populous is continually exchanging and integrating regional examples into its international projects, constantly disrupting and improving these designs. This year-long project, in association with PanStadia & Arena Management Magazine, has focussed on what designing ‘tomorrow’s together’ could look like for players, fans and communities, all over the world. A constant and intensive global conversation between our three main offices in the US, UK and Australia has helped us expand our understanding of the wider history of venue design, the nature of current trends, and their cumulative influence on where the future lies.
In attempting to categorise the key influences on venue design, we settled on seven key themes, discussing the creative tensions between each. These include: technology; place; hospitality; professional standards; involvement; event; and finally, revenue generation – a factor that is defined by and influences all of the other categories.
Our final presentation at the Stadia & Arena Asia Pacific 2015 event divided into two parts: a PechaKucha-style assemblage of ideas that grew from these seven categories; and four questions that we considered key to reflecting significant current or imminent concerns of venue-design. These can be seen on our website at populous.com/venuesofthefuture.
Here, we aim to show and describe some of the ideas that have come out of this project and our global conversations. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Over the years, trends in venue positioning have changed dramatically. From the edges of urban areas to the centres of cities, the environment of stadia is changing the look and feel of communities around the world. We are also seeing more multi-purpose designs, such as the London Olympic Stadium Transformation, Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium in north London and Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne. Such transformable venues permit a host of events to take place in a single location, allowing the venue maximised use throughout the year.
In the future, we’re interested to see whether the trend will shift towards venues that are defined by their sense of local place and context, or whether we’ll see a trend towards temporary venues that could be moved around the world to serve a particular event.
The ‘sprint-tube’ idea further explores the aforementioned transportable venues, and draws on two particular inspirations. The first is the notion of the ‘permanent temporary venue’; a venue that moves around the world to celebrate a particular event. While the frame and bowl remain unchanged, the venue uses local services and infrastructure, can be easily transported and clad with local materials, as well as being activated by local branding.
The second inspiration is the celebration of a particular event type in its most exciting format. We have seen this in recent years with Twenty20 cricket, rugby sevens and 5-a-side football, all of which have been able to open new and exciting markets through adapting their traditional format.
The ‘sprint-tube’ takes a traditional athletics event, and celebrates the idea that the 100m final could be a dual between the best two sprinters in the world, using any open and appropriate space within a localised context.
The traditional and the technological
Whilst predicting technological advancements is not new, exciting developments continuously allow us to look again at traditional design strategies with fresh eyes. The concept of an open field of play with slopes for spectators is well established, and is how some of the great early stadia developed. However, advances in security and identity technology could allow us to re-examine such a typology, optimising it as a business model and making it work for a new era of venues.
For example, Tickets that are automatically read upon entering a venue space could redefine the places and areas that are open to paying guests and other members of the general public.
As well as designing for traditional sports in innovative ways, new sports are increasing in popularity from previously untapped areas. One particular event type which is continuing to develop and grow rapidly is the field of eSports. The challenges involved in adapting the language of sports and entertainment design are manifold, but present an incredible opportunity to the stadium and venue sector. How do we connect the spectators at the event with the virtual spectator? How does a ‘virtual’ event define itself within a physical venue? We believe that the relationship between spectators and players could become a really interesting point of development in the future for all sports, this traditional distinction becoming blurred in new and interesting ways.
‘Watching without Watching’
Of course, not everyone who goes to a venue is fascinated by the event itself! But venues and events can appeal to everyone, not just those who are interested in the sport or entertainment on centre stage. Multiple products and offerings within venues are being developed that allow a distracted spectator to enjoy the experience and be with friends in the same location. We like to think of this as ‘watching without watching’. Venues can offer much more than just the spectacle on the video boards, with swimming pools, game bars and nightclubs adapted into recent Populous venues.
The structure of American sports in particular generates very sophisticated and high quality venues for amateur athletes. Could this model be adopted by other countries for other sports, in other areas of the world? The collegiate model of sport suggests venues that could be more embedded at the heart of their respective campuses, producing venues which could be used more intensively by their communities.
We are lucky in our industry that stadium and event design includes the whole spectrum of society. While most venues are owned by clubs or local government, there is always the possibility that the super-rich could take an interest in a sporting stage; could the modern-day tennis court in the back garden have seating and courtside facilities? Likewise, it is also possible to develop venues as a kit-of-parts, leading to low-cost, easily transportable venues which allow developing countries to host minor or even major events, with those facilities subsequently being transformed into venues that could provide useful community facilities post event. Whether for one person or a whole community, the possibilities of adaptive venue design are endless.
The at-home broadcast experience becomes more advanced every year, resulting in real challenges for our
clients in drawing fans into venues, and for designers to create new ways to engage them. One solution might be in giving fans the controls and allowing them to affect the game. If fans were able to control the live event, we could design the infrastructure to allow for this. Whether this is through a moving façade, changes in the pitch, or ways to control the weather and elements on the field, fan control could make the game truly interactive, bringing fans physically and emotionally closer to what’s happening on the field.
The ideal venue offers a valuable asset to owners 365 days a year, or at least several days in a week, and one way to ensure this viability is to make the venue itself the ‘show’.
Following this notion, the ‘piazzadium’ concept explores the idea of the flexible venue: The city square is celebrated, but can be rapidly transformed for a series of uses; from interactive landscape to single or multi-use community sports and events, outdoor cinema to full-scale stadium. Surrounding buildings can also be utilised to provide hospitality offers, administrative facilities, player and performer spaces or any back of house space requirement. And when an event ends, the space can immediately return to public use.
This project has given us the opportunity to celebrate sport and entertainment architecture and design, both reviewing what already exists, but also how stadia and venues could look and feel in the future with brand new developments. Our belief that human beings will always want physical venues because of their innate desire to celebrate together has been both strengthened and extended, not least through the many PS&AM readers who have got in touch as a result of the project.
We’re really excited about designing tomorrow’s together. We hope you can join the conversation.
This article first appeared in PanStadia & Arena Management Magazine