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THE DESIGN ARENA

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index.jpg With the eagerly-awaited Allianz Arena in Munich on target to open later this year, Lee Jones reports on how the design of sports stadia is evolving

Cast your mind back to the 1970s and the average football stadium could best be described as four sheds covered with corrugated iron. Thirty years later, the sporting venue sector has moved on beyond recognition and today a sports stadium must boast the right mix of aesthetics, practicality and facilities to make the grade.

Located in Munich, Germany, the Allianz Arena represents a perfect example of how far our sporting arenas have come in recent years. This all-seater stadium will serve as a showpiece, hosting the first match of next year’s World Cup tournament and a number of subsequent games throughout the competition. It is also set to be the new home for the city’s two most recognised football teams, Bayern Munich and TSV 1860 Munich.

The design brief for the stadium was fairly straightforward; it had to have a capacity of 66,000, be designed specifically for football (no multi-functional arena, no athletics track) and have a roof covering all seats. Consequently this three-tiered structure will incorporate a steel cantilevered roof, along with 160,000 metres square of retail and leisure space beneath the seating and the building’s most striking feature – an external façade that changes colour.

The walls of this structure will comprise inflatable ETFE cushions and through a series of lighting elements the colours of the cushions will change depending on what team is playing at home. White/blue or red/white diamonds will move over the walls as if it is a giant LED screen. This coupled with the excellent seating design that ensures spectators are kept close to the action will guarantee a world-class sporting experience for football fans.

With an unrivalled pedigree working on previous high profile sporting venues like the City of Manchester Stadium in the UK, Arup was chosen to provide sports architecture and structural engineering services for the bowl design on this spectacular new stadium. This included input at the production information stage on the bevelled pre-stressed spun concrete supports, which enable the stadium to have its curved profile. Each of the terracing sections require 96 of these pre-formed supports and weigh between 6.2 tonnes and 12 tonnes, with the sections in total weighing some 23,000 tonnes. In terms of total capability, sports specialist Arup Sport provides a multi-disciplinary design of sports arenas and stadiums to specific consultancy advice, on the many aspects within sports design.

Exciting Atmoshpere
Working with Swiss architects, Herzog and de Meuron, Arup Sport has been involved in the project since inception. The company’s architectural director, J Parrish, explains: “Bayern Munich and TSV 1860 currently play in Munich’s Olympic Stadium which has an athletics track, so supporters should enjoy the atmosphere in the new seating bowl with its continuous tiers and close proximity to the pitch. Creating an intimate and exciting atmosphere is crucial and we worked hard to achieve a good balance between seating comfort, quality of view over the spectators in front and distance from the action. In total we produced 33 subtly different designs for the bowl before agreeing on the final form.”

The sheer size and scale of the Allianz project coupled with the stadium’s numerous innovative features mean there have been many challenges throughout the design stages. “They include the usual aspects of good stadium design,” explains J. “It’s all about getting the best balance and compromise because virtually all the factors controlling the design of a sports stadium conflict with each other. For instance, if you want to get a better view over the head of the person in front you’re forced to move everyone further from the field of play. Designing from first principles is essential but getting the best mix of optimisations is both a science and an art.”

Arup Sport’s expertise in overcoming these kinds of hurdles was a key factor in its selection for this highly prestigious project. “We were chosen on the basis of capability and because we are good people to work with. We’ve built up a significant track record in stadium design and there’s no substitute for experience if a project of this type and complexity is to run smoothly,” J adds.

This level of expertise means Arup Sport’s services are constantly in demand and the business is currently in the midst of a number of other prestigious venue design projects around the world. With a capacity of nearly 100,000, the Beijing National Stadium will host the opening and closing of the 29th Olympic Games in 2008, as well as all the track and field events, and is a project that Arup Sport has been heavily involved in from the beginning. Again Arup Sport is working with Herzog and de Meuron, but this time the team also includes Chinese design group, CAG. “It would be a very arrogant team that decided they should work in a country with different language, culture and conditions without a local partner. So when we’re working in foreign countries it’s very important for us to partner local companies in this way. Most of our projects are outside the UK and project teams are made up of members from around the globe with experience of the building type and the location,” comments J.

Over the last few decades sports venues and stadiums around the world have changed significantly with improved facilities for spectators and a concentration on extending their use to non-event days. “When I started in this business in the mid 1970s a football stadium typically had four stands and very minimal facilities. It might even have had columns supporting the front of the roof to make it cheaper. We’ve passed well beyond that phase to the point where a stadium is now a very complex building providing a range of different facilities to suit the different types of spectator,” he says. “So you will now have everything from standard concourses, where the general spectators have toilets and food and drink concessions, to exclusive boxes where much smaller numbers of spectators can enjoy the game, excellent catering and a drink in considerable luxury.” But spectator areas are not the only facilities that have changed and provisions for operators, event organisers, participants and the media are also considerably more complex and extensive.

J continues: “We’ve seen the evolution of the primary stadium functions and now we’re seeing the move towards better integration of stadiums into the fabric of our societies. All of us hate to see these venues sitting apparently idle for much of the year and this next stage is about how we can make them alive and vibrant for as much of the year as possible.”

Another change in stadium design is linked to the increasing prevalence of closing roofs with Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium and the Sapporo Dome in Japan being typical examples of this trend. This feature brings a number of benefits to a venue by providing more certainty of an event actually taking place and attracting a much wider range of potential users and uses. “Closing roofs help increase revenue and make the stadium a live destination as much of the time as possible. We also need to make facilities within a stadium dual-use so they can be used on non-event days as well as event days. Typical examples are hotel rooms that become boxes on event days or an exhibition space that can be used for hospitality during events.”

Changes have also been seen in terms of the quality levels that are now required for new stadiums. “Society’s expectations rise each year and designers must respond by making sure the stadiums produced meet our clients’ requirements and society’s expectations. The standards of stadium architecture, facilities and finishes are steadily improving and will surely continue to do so for many years to come. It’s a very exciting period in the history of stadium design.” J concludes. CT-E

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