FIFA Arenas: Al Janoub Stadium by Zaha Hadid Architects in Al Wakrah, Qatar
by Jerry ElengicalNov 03, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Dec 01, 2022
Resembling a 'burnished golden vessel', whose gleaming diagrid façade design features geometric motifs in anodised metal, the Lusail Stadium by London-based Foster + Partners has been described as the "centrepiece" of all the venues developed for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Situated in the upcoming development of Lusail on Qatar’s east coast, the project is just a short distance away from the waters of the Arabian Gulf, as a glimmering new landmark that will be a focal point of the new urban development to the north of Doha. As the stage for the 2022 FIFA World Cup final, the structure boasts a capacity of 80,000 and its placement within its context signals the end of a major boulevard extending towards the end of the corniche. Beside it, the upcoming quartet of skyscrapers, dubbed the Lusail Towers and an accompanying plaza—also designed by Foster + Partners—are expected to form the core of a new central business district in the area. While speaking to STIR, Angus Campbell, Senior Partner, and Doretta Bevilacqua Gilkes, Partner at Foster + Partners, elaborate on their 13-year-long journey towards achieving the lofty goals set out at the commencement of the project, outlining the intricacies of designing a venue fit to host football’s greatest spectacle—the FIFA World Cup final.
The stadium’s design, which was reportedly moulded by aesthetic motifs taken from Qatar’s traditional architecture, evokes a glimmering golden ornament, casting the structure as the crowning glory of the waterfront development in Lusail. Placed atop a landscaped podium—similar to most of the new World Cup venues—Lusail Stadium's simple yet expressive curved form rests on V-shaped perimeter supports that frame entrance and exit gates, along the surrounding public concourse. Above, the main volume was devised through contextual design studies that aimed to optimise the stadium’s architecture to Qatar’s climate while also accounting for FIFA regulations.
For this purpose, the venue’s bowl makes use of a diagrid structure to support the roof and seating areas, which is expressed along the surface of its envelope. Triangular motifs and intersecting angular ridges on the lustrous metal exterior add rhythm and a geometric design slant to the stadium’s visual identity, with horizontal striations imparting a sense of scale to the latticed façade. Minute openings between the units of the diagrid allow light to infiltrate the bowl as well as allow for supplementary spaces allocated as part of the area program. These perforations, which are also triangular in shape, serve to underpin the visual qualities of the structural design, almost exhibiting fractal-esque configurations.
Angus Campbell, senior partner at Foster + Partners, explains in an official release, “Using the experience of redesigning Wembley Stadium with its now iconic arch, we are incredibly proud to have created a unique and instantly recognisable symbol for Qatar as host of the FIFA World Cup 2022, including the final in Lusail. Together with our joint venture partner, Arup, and sports specialist Populous, we believe the stadium will be a truly memorable venue for this year’s final and many other international events in the future.” According to the firm, which is led by British architect Norman Foster, the project’s roots stretch as far back as 2009, when the practice was first approached to design a venue for Qatar’s World Cup bid.
While a number of alterations to the brief, including a change in the location of the site, took place along the way, the practice’s desire to create a venue that would captivate and awe remained consistent through each iteration of the design process. Hence, their process found its roots in producing an atmosphere worthy of hosting athletic competitions at the calibre of the FIFA World Cup. In the view of the architects, this end result was achieved through careful consideration of the design of the seating bowl and its relationship to the pitch. To this end, the seating arena generated by their efforts functions as an inward-looking "vessel" that comes alive when spectators infuse its volume with energy and vitality.
As its proverbial ‘lid', a tessellated tensile membrane covers the roof of the vessel, supported by a spoke wheel structural system. The overall shape of the roof is said to resemble a pringle, and its geometry interlocks perfectly with the bowl’s upper perimeter, leaving no gaps. Comprising an external compression ring and an internal tension ring, which outlines the oculus over the centre of the pitch, the two structural frames of the spoke wheel system are linked by a layered system of diagonal struts in a cable net system with a diameter of 307 metres. Despite being one of the largest such tensile cable-net roof systems in the world, this assembly is also surprisingly lightweight, avoiding the need for any additional supports beyond the perimeter columns. Furthermore, the shape of the roof also serves to stabilise air movement inside the bowl, optimising the efficiency of the cooling system used to maintain an ideal internal microclimate for football. This coupled with the latticed envelope, which regulates heat gain and glare, has assisted the venue in achieving a five-star rating under the Global Sustainability Assessment System, created for the event.
Following a lengthy process of realisation, the venue finally opened on September 9, 2022, to host the Lusail Super Cup final between Saudi Pro League champions Al Hilal SFC and the Egyptian Premier League winners Zamalek, just two months prior to the start of the World Cup. In a press statement, Luke Fox, head of studio at Foster + Partners, shares about the stadium’s opening: “It was a delight to be at the game and see the stadium nearly filled with spectators for the first time. Our ambition was to create a striking yet simple form that reflects the building’s function, responds to the climate of Qatar and enhances the theatre of the event.” He continues, “The arrival experience is intuitive and immersive. Spectators enter the vessel between two tiers of seating that have been intentionally compressed to heighten the sense of drama as they emerge into the generous seating bowl flooded with natural light.”
Post the tournament, the capacity of the stadium will be reduced to half, mirroring the ‘Legacy’ mode of the other venues that have been realised for the World Cup. Providing a scintillating addition to the rapidly expanding urban landscape of Lusail, Foster + Partners’ Lusail Stadium conceals its extraordinary complexity and detailing beneath a façade of restraint. Its lucidity, a testament to the firm’s unending capacity to produce exhilarating ventures in sports architecture, the stadium is a gem within Qatar’s ever-evolving urban environment that delivers the very spectacle that was promised, over a decade ago.
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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