FIFA Arenas: Khalifa International Stadium by Dar Al-Handasah, in Al Rayyan, Qatar

Rounding off the series is the renovation and upgrade of Qatar’s premier footballing venue, conducted by the very architects responsible for its initial design back in 1976.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Dec 15, 2022

Since its completion back in 1976 by Dar Al-Handasah, the Khalifa International Stadium in Al Rayyan has been one of Qatar's most eminent footballing and athletic venues, having played host to landmark events such as—the 2006 Asian Games, 2011 Pan Arab Games, 2019 World Athletics Championships, 2011 AFC Asian Cup, and the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup. In almost five decades of functioning, the stadium’s design has been reworked several times, first back in 1984, and then in 2005 for the Asian Games. However, the latest improvement to the venue was commissioned for the ongoing 2022 FIFA World Cup, with the design developed by its original architects, who remoulded it using an updated aesthetic while retaining the iconic pair of soaring steel arches which swoop around its opposing stands.

Video of the revamped Khalifa International Stadium Video: Courtesy of the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy

An emblematic element of stadium architecture in the current context, the use of arches in this case serves to create a recognisable silhouette and provide a support system for overhead lighting. Perhaps the most visible usage of this element comes in the form of the new Wembley Stadium by Foster + Partners in London, UK, which has a massive arch running over its field of play, spanning 315 metres and rising to a height of 133 metres. At present, it is said to be the largest single span roof structure in the world. 

  • The stadium is located in Al Rayyan’s Aspire Zone development, home to a growing number of eminent sports venues | Khalifa International Stadium | Dar Al-Handasah | STIRworld
    The stadium is located in Al Rayyan’s Aspire Zone development, home to a growing number of eminent sports venues Image: Courtesy of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy
  • The intervention retained the stadium’s iconic arches | Khalifa International Stadium | Dar Al-Handasah | STIRworld
    The intervention retained the stadium’s iconic arches Image: Niran Jayasanka, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons

In a similar vein, Khalifa International Stadium’s most recent overhaul, completed in 2017, saw the stadium's iconic double arches retained, to become part of a tensile structure that holds the roof assembly in place. A pair of wide fabric canopies have been added beneath the arches, which assist in providing insulation to the cooling system that maintains agreeable conditions within the building envelope. Differences in the elevations of seating tiers give the form an asymmetrical balance in its structural design, where the elliptical massing and accompanying arch structure on one side is far more pronounced in elevation, than its counterpart. Additionally, on the cosmetic front, the stadium’s façade design was also revamped to a considerable degree, with the incorporation of new finishes and digital lighting design elements, which impart it with a more contemporary design aesthetic, in tune with the remaining venues developed for the tournament.

Dar Al-Handasah added a pair of new canopies to the volume, supported by the arches | Khalifa International Stadium | Dar Al-Handasah | STIRworld
Dar Al-Handasah added a pair of new canopies to the volume, supported by the arches Image: Courtesy of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy

Located in the Aspire Zone complex (also known as Doha Sports City), the structure is part of a leading sports development in the urban area of Al Rayyan, neighbouring the Hamad Aquatic Centre and the Aspire Dome. A number of sporting venues occupying plots within the complex were built in order to host the 2006 Asian Games. Other attractions in its vicinity include the Aspire Tower, the country’s current tallest building, along with the Villaggio Mall, which is among Al Rayyan’s most popular retail and recreational destinations.

The façade was also updated with digital lighting design elements which give its appearance a more contemporary feel | Khalifa International Stadium | Dar Al-Handasah | STIRworld
The façade was also updated with digital lighting design elements which give its appearance a more contemporary feel Image: Courtesy of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy

Dar Al-Handasah’s redevelopment of the stadium also featured the introduction of a new tier of seating for the audience, which bolstered the ground’s capacity by 12,000 to a final number of 40,000, in order to meet FIFA guidelines for hosting World Cup matches. After hosting seven such hotly-contested ties till date, the stadium’s final bow during the course of the event will come during the third place play off on December 17, bringing the total to eight.

The stadium was inaugurated in 2017, and played host to the Emir of Qatar Cup final in the same year | Khalifa International Stadium | Dar Al-Handasah | STIRworld
The stadium was inaugurated in 2017, and played host to the Emir of Qatar Cup final in the same year Image: Courtesy of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy

Over the field of play, a large oculus allows light to enter the stadium’s volume, with a hyperbolic paraboloid profile that resembles the geometry of a pringle—much like in the case of Foster + Partners' Lusail Stadium, which will host the World Cup final. Inside this envelope, the stadium’s innovative cooling technology is said to be capable of regulating indoor conditions on the pitch at an optimum 20 degrees Celsius and the stands at 22-24 degrees Celsius throughout the year.

An oculus has been placed over the field of play, exhibiting a hyperbolic paraboloid geometry | Khalifa International Stadium | Dar Al-Handasah | STIRworld
An oculus has been placed over the field of play, exhibiting a hyperbolic paraboloid geometry Image: Courtesy of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy

Programmatically, the venture also expanded the scope of the stadium’s functioning beyond simply that of a venue for sporting events. Among the additions that have gained the greatest degree of attention since its unveiling is the 3-2-1 Qatar Olympic and Sports Museum—which is touted to be one of the largest such sports museums in the world, and a first institution in the Middle East to join the Olympic Museums Network. The structure itself takes form as a swirling glass protrusion from the main volume of the stadium, with latticed shading canopies of varying size projecting from its many levels. Furthermore, the stadium’s internal layout also boasts luxury viewing spaces such as VIP rooms and private boxes, all fitted with a decidedly contemporary interior design scheme.

  • The stadium undergoing its remodel | Khalifa International Stadium | Dar Al-Handasah | STIRworld
    The stadium undergoing its remodel Image: Courtesy of Flickr user jbdodane, Creative Commons
  • Khalifa International Stadium is hosting eight matches throughout the 2022 FIFA World Cup, including the third place playoff | Khalifa International Stadium | Dar Al-Handasah | STIRworld
    Khalifa International Stadium is hosting eight matches throughout the 2022 FIFA World Cup, including the third place playoff Image: Ilus, Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons

Following the extensive process of reworking the stadium’s many aesthetic and structural facets, the venue was officially inaugurated in 2017, and also played host to the 2017 Emir of Qatar Cup final (now known as the Amir Cup). With significant boosts to its capabilities which have equipped it well for the modern landscape of sporting events in Qatar, Dar Al-Handasah’s reworking of their own 46-year-old design has produced a venue capable of creating spectacles that will serve to elevate the domain of competitive sport in the country for years to come.

In response to the mounting anticipation, excitement, and fervour around the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, FIFA Arenas: Better Together is a collection of interviews and features that analyse the sphere of stadium design from a multitude of angles, examining the venues which will set the stage for the first World Cup in the Middle East. Diving into the core tenets that forge an arena worthy of football’s greatest stage, the series explores means by which the typology of a football stadium can create memorable spectacles, foster a sense of community, and become a prominent point of convergence within the larger urban realm it inhabits.

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