While 2014 will be a banner year for international sport, with the Fifa World Cup in Brazil and Winter Olympics in Russia, 2013 is an exciting year for stadiums with the opening of the main venues for the World Cup and Olympics as well as the Gulf Cup of Nations. A new building for Spartak Moscow and renovations of Madison Square Garden, University of Washington’s Husky Stadium in Seattle round out what will no doubt be a significant year for new stadia worldwide.
Estádio do Maracanã. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
One of the world’s cathedrals of sport, the Maracanã was built for the 1950 World Cup and famously hosted the Final match that saw the home side Brazil lose 2-1 to neighbors Uruguay. Attendance at that final match reached 200,000 spectators and though its capacity has been reduced significantly it still holds a towering position in the history of international football. For the 2014 FIFA World Cup, 2016 Summer Olympics and 2013 Confederations Cup, the Maracanã is being retrofitted. While the exterior has landmark status and thus can’t be touched, the interior bowl is being completely rebuilt, all seating replaced, and a new roof featuring rainwater collection installed, all designed by Daniel Fernandes of São Paulo-based Fernandes Arquitetos. Overall stadium capacity will be reduced to 77,000-spectators, although the overall envelope and size of the stadium will remain the same. With this sensitive yet bold renovation the Maracanã looks to remain at the center of the global sporting scene in the coming years.
Fisht Olympic Stadium. Sochi, Russia
The XXII Olympic Winter Games are returning to Russia in 2014 for the first time since the Games were held in Moscow in 1980. This iteration of the winter sport festival will be held in the summer seaside resort town of Sochi, on the Black Sea coast near the Georgian border. This will be the first Winter Olympic Games with an Olympic Park, and the Populous-designed Fisht Olympic Stadium will be the feature building amongst five other arenas in the Coastal Cluster. Fisht Olympic Stadium is situated so that its two open ends direct views to Mt. Fisht to the north and the Black Sea to the south. The stadium will hold 45,000 spectators for the Olympics and World Cup in 2018 but has been designed to reduce capacity to 25,000 when it becomes home for local football matches. The design for the open-air stadium takes its inspiration from Fabergé art and the opposing, continuous glass-covered sides of the stadium will reflect the sun and provide tantalizing aerial images.
Basra Sport City. Basrah, Iraq
In the midst of an ongoing war, the Iraqi government put together a plan to fund a $550 million sports park featuring a 65,000-seat soccer stadium, 20,000-seat “secondary” stadium, four training fields, four 5-star hotels, and many other sports facilities, in the southern city of Basra. The facility was originally meant to host the 2013 Gulf Cup of Nations soccer tournament, but ongoing security concerns have moved the event to Bahrain; Basra Sport City now plans to host in 2015. Kansas City-based 360 Architecture won the commission through a design competition and the American firm used local Iraqi weaving traditions as the inspiration for the exterior of the main stadium. A series of white, precast concrete, ogee-shaped bands intertwine with vertical elements to create a dynamic exterior. The thick facade and continuous roof will throw significant shadow on spectators and should mediate Basra’s extraordinary summer temperatures.
Arena Corinthians. São Paulo, Brazil
Back in Brazil, which along with Russia is seeing a fast, major overhaul of its sport facilities, the city of São Paulo and the legendary Sport Club Corinthians are getting a new, 45,000-seater that has been on top of Stadiafile’s list for a while. Designed by somewhat unknown architect Anibal Coutinho, the modern, minimalist yet bold new stadium will host up to four matches in the 2014 World Cup and will later be home to Sport Club Corinthians. The field is below ground, such that main access to the building will be between upper and lower tiers via a spacious plaza. A crisp, square roof will hover above and cast shade on spectators, while acting as a surface for photovoltaic cells that will generate some of the energy needed to run the building. The entire east side wall of the exterior will be a high definition video board measuring 120 meters x 7.5 meters – making it the world’s largest video board, well over double the screen size of Dallas’ Cowboy Stadium. While the Maracanã will garner much of the attention at the World Cup, it is Arena Corinthians that I expect to be the showstopper.
Spartak Stadium. Moscow, Russia
FC Spartak Moscow’s new, 42,000-seat stadium is under construction and scheduled for completion at the end of 2013. The stadium and its 12,000-seat little brother next door – both designed by AECOM – are located on the deserted Tushino Airport site, fifteen km outside the city center. Like many modern European stadia, Spartak Stadium has a continuous exterior wall and roof design, with the latter’s robust structure designed to withstand large loads from Russian snows. The two-tier stadium features a large bank of VIP suites along one sideline and will have a synthetic playing surface that can be switched out for natural grass for international tournaments, as will be the case when the 2018 FIFA World Cup is played in Russia.
Husky Stadium. University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
One of College Football’s most picturesque, unique stadiums has been out of commission for the past two seasons undergoing major renovations. 360 Architecture were charged with the redesign and from the looks of it, Husky Stadium’s essential character will remain intact. Adjacent to Lake Washington on the University of Washington campus, 70% of the stadium’s 72,000 seats are located between the two end zones. The upper tiers rise vertiginously high above the field, capped by two broad roofs which both shelter fans from the Northwestern rains and direct crowd noise down to the field. While the entire stadium except for the northern stand has been rebuilt, much remains essentially the same. What’s different then you ask? The track that surrounded the field has been relocated to a nearby track and field stadium. The south stand has been rebuilt, and while it maintains the iconic symmetrical profile with its northern counterpart, a level of luxury suites and a small middle tier of seats have been inserted between lower and upper tiers. The stadium’s east side, long kept open to the lake, has been enclosed by of a new single tier of seating and field-level suites. A newly rebuilt and more prominent campus side entry on the west side rounds out a largely similar, yet more modern Husky Stadium. The renovations all seem logical and maintain a gem of a football stadium – the true test for Husky fans will be if their Dogs can ever wrestle control of Pac-12 North from their southern neighbors in Eugene.
Madison Square Garden Phase III. New York, NY
For the past two summers, the ever-busy Madison Square Garden has been dark, due to a three-phase, $1 billion, complete transformation of the 40-year-old building. Toronto-based BBB Architects are leading the design effort, which has so far seen the demolition of lower and upper seating bowls, which were famously in a single-tier configuration, to be replaced by a more normative upper and lower tier with mid-level suites, larger fan concourses, construction of the 10,000 sf West Balcony Party Deck, and rebuilt locker rooms. This summer, Phase III includes perhaps the most striking aspects of the project. A rebuilt main entrance – from 7th Avenue. A matching fan Party Deck on a newly-built East Balcony, to be connected to the West with unprecedented fan bridges hanging from the iconic MSG roof. It is still not fully clear how the fan bridges will operate, but they are described as having a capacity of 500 and will look directly down onto the action below. Whether these will be the novel, exciting, innovative feature in fan experience we hope for, or just an annoying gimmick that gets in the way of upper tier seats and hides that great roof is yet to be seen. However, the creativity and boldness of the idea, along with an improved entry and reported city views from the long dark and dismal fan concourses should make ‘The World’s Most Famous Arena’ a far improved venue.