FIFA Arenas: Stadium 974 by Fenwick Iribarren Architects in Ras Abu Aboud, Qatar

As a fully demountable stadium built for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the venue is composed of 974 shipping containers mounted on a steel frame, in a remarkable feat of modular design.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Dec 08, 2022

Football stadiums are generally regarded as permanent pieces of sporting and cultural infrastructure, at least when compared to the average life cycles of most other building typologies. Often among the longest enduring specimens in this niche of sports architecture, many football stadiums are still in use over a century after their inauguration. While retrofitting and refurbishing these structures does play a significant part in ensuring their longevity, especially when contemplating the immense degree of economic and cultural significance they come to bear as architectural landmarks, there is still little that can be done at the end of their functional lives to negate material wastage as well as the environmental impact of their demolition. Although modularity and prefabrication have become norms in the arena of stadium architecture to address these issues, there is one particular structure realised for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar that takes both these concepts to new heights, and is billed as the first "fully demountable" stadium built for the tournament.

  • Video of Stadium 974 by Fenwick Iribarren Architects Video: Courtesy of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy
  • The structure is located near Doha port towards the bay and corniche | Stadium 974 | Fenwick Iribarren Architects | STIRworld
    The structure is located near Doha port towards the bay and corniche Image: Courtesy of Fenwick Iribarren Architects

Stadium 974, located in the coastal district of Ras Abu Aboud, in Doha derives its name from both Qatar's dialling code as well as the number of modular components used to assemble it. Embracing the trend of shipping container architecture, on a scale that has scarcely been seen before, the stadium was built using 974 transport containers affixed to a steel structural frame, making it exceptionally lightweight and flexible, where modules can be switched in or out as necessary. Able to host up to 40,000 spectators, the venue is blessed with stunning views of Doha Bay and the corniche, with excellent connectivity to nearby airports, alongside other parts of the city, by means of the metro system.

The venue is said to be the first fully demountable stadium built for the FIFA World Cup | Stadium 974 | Fenwick Iribarren Architects | STIRworld
The venue is said to be the first fully demountable stadium built for the FIFA World Cup Image: Courtesy of Fenwick Iribarren Architects

As per Mark Fenwick and Javier Iribarren, co-Founders of Fenwick Iribarren Architects, the genesis of their revolutionary idea lay in an architectural competition conducted by Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy. Even though the initial goal was to create yet another iconic footballing venue to round off the cohort of eight stadiums needed for the tournament, over time, the design team saw value in attempting something that had never been done before. Instead of simply reducing the capacity of the stadium post the tournament, as in the case of the other 2022 World Cup stadiums, Fenwick Iribarren Architects decided to take an extreme trajectory in devising the structure's Legacy mode, envisaging it as a piece of pop-up architecture of monumental scale. The use of shipping containers is also a nod towards the history of its site, in close proximity to the neighbouring port.

Construction time lapse of Stadium 974 Video: Courtesy of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy

Keeping this in mind, the design team began conceptualising the structure as a ‘kit of parts,' "like a massive Meccano whose structure and containers could be taken apart and transported," Fenwick and Iribarren note in a press statement. They continue, “Some of the first ideas used to develop the modularity system meant a return to childhood and taking a new look at lifelong construction toys such as Lego and Meccano. Their sets contain a few modular elements which allow for many different building options. This was an obvious design reference, though there was a need to take the idea to a level and scale never seen before. This stadium requires two different modular design systems. The first was to establish a grid column-and-beam structure (Meccano concept) and the second was to have modular volumes for the stadium’s different uses (Lego concept).”

The structural frame accommodating the containers also serves to render the vibrant façade design | Stadium 974 | Fenwick Iribarren Architects | STIRworld
The structural frame accommodating the containers also serves to render the vibrant façade design Image: Courtesy of Fenwick Iribarren Architects

These direct references aided in making the process an exercise in purely modular construction, since the structural frame was built using virtually identical construction members. In effect, this rendered the frame's constituent beams and columns to be of uniform size, generating an arrangement of repetitive modules. Moreover, to streamline the process of assembly and disassembly, the structural members were designed to be bolted together, with specific bolted node connections devised expressly for this purpose. For the most part, the grid outlining the structural design measures 9 metres x 8.5 metres in plan, with the only exception being the corners where the grid is radial. Steel bracing and angled steel columns on the façade offer additional reinforcement where necessary. Only 10 unique modules are needed to assemble the entire stadium—a testament to the architects' extreme commitment to their initial idea.

  • The stadium under construction | Stadium 974 | Fenwick Iribarren Architects | STIRworld
    The stadium under construction Image: Courtesy of Fenwick Iribarren Architects
  • Individual modules were built by joining containers, such that they could then be ‘plugged in’ to the steel frame structure | Stadium 974 | Fenwick Iribarren Architects | STIRworld
    Individual modules were built by joining containers, such that they could then be ‘plugged in’ to the steel frame structure Image: Courtesy of Fenwick Iribarren Architects

Cost-effectiveness was another essential parameter throughout the design process, producing the exceedingly simple yet vibrant façade design, which was conceived as a means of demonstrating how the containers themselves could render an iconic visual identity, devoid of any ornament. In order to achieve this, individual containers were joined together to create larger prefab design modules. After fitting them with interior partitions and finishes, the modules can then be directly ‘plugged’ into place as per functional requirements, and painted to complete the varicoloured exterior scheme. Fenwick Iribarren Architects designed a number of such modules to function as toilets, audience seating, concession units, office units, and skyboxes. Even the provision of building services adheres to a modular configuration, where piping, ducting, and cables are left open for testing and verification for maximum flexibility and minimum installation time.

The stadium is equipped to accommodate up to 40,000 spectators | Stadium 974 | Fenwick Iribarren Architects | STIRworld
The stadium is equipped to accommodate up to 40,000 spectators Image: Courtesy of Fenwick Iribarren Architects

Under its structural design, the stadium features 10 sloped stairs, 17 staircase towers, 2,650 slabs, 84 steel roof trusses, and over 1,440 roof bracings. A massive steel frame with diagonal supports encircles the ‘plugged in’ container modules, with the bleacher sections angled down towards them along the upper tier and concourse. Cast in-situ concrete was used for the foundations, with additional concrete used for the flooring slabs throughout the stadium. Alternatively, the roof makes use of welded cantilever trusses to support a system of steel decking, which slopes outwards to allow rainwater to run off its surfaces.

Conceptual sketches | Stadium 974 | Fenwick Iribarren Architects | STIRworld
Conceptual sketches Image: Courtesy of Fenwick Iribarren Architects

Programmatically, the layout of spaces on the ground floor comprises the player and VIP accesses, spaces for supporting delegates, media, and general spectators. The level above it, hosts both the VIP and hospitality lounges, with the mezzanine floor placed on top of it to accommodate service areas. Further up, the VIP concourse and upper concourse are home to VVIP lounges, hospitality skyboxes, the media centre and press conference areas, as well as the access to the upper tier of stadium seating, rounding off the plan.

  • Diagram of construction process | Stadium 974 | Fenwick Iribarren Architects | STIRworld
    Diagram of construction process Image: Courtesy of Fenwick Iribarren Architects
  • Axonometric section of stadium module | Stadium 974 | Fenwick Iribarren Architects | STIRworld
    Axonometric section of stadium module Image: Courtesy of Fenwick Iribarren Architects

However, the most interesting feature of the stadium’s design comes in the form of its potential Legacy configurations, where the structure will be dismantled in its entirety after fulfilling its role of hosting seven matches during the tournament. The architects have envisioned two scenarios on this topic, where in the first case, the stadium’s components would be restructured to build smaller venues, in countries in need of sporting infrastructure, whereas the second course of action would see the structure effectively reconstructed at a different location.

  • Ground Level Plan | Stadium 974 | Fenwick Iribarren Architects | STIRworld
    Ground Level Plan Image: Courtesy of Fenwick Iribarren Architects
  • Podium Level Plan | Stadium 974 | Fenwick Iribarren Architects | STIRworld
    Podium Level Plan Image: Courtesy of Fenwick Iribarren Architects
  • Mezzanine Level Plan | Stadium 974 | Fenwick Iribarren Architects | STIRworld
    Mezzanine Level Plan Image: Courtesy of Fenwick Iribarren Architects

Both trajectories would leave the site exactly as it was prior to the construction of Stadium 974, leaving no trace of its presence there. Naturally, this concept has been described as a milestone in designing sports venues of this scale, where the humble yet versatile shipping container—generally seen in residential design applications—has been reimagined as a literal building block, in a manner that evokes metabolist architectural philosophies observed in buildings such as now-dismantled Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo. In reinterpreting the concept of ‘plugging in’ prefabricated architectural modules as part of larger functional constructs, Fenwick Iribarren Architects has developed revolutionary new precedents for sustainably designed football stadiums, which could prove vital to address the environmental fallout of sporting events of this magnitude. 

  • VIP Concourse Level Plan | Stadium 974 | Fenwick Iribarren Architects | STIRworld
    VIP Concourse Level Plan Image: Courtesy of Fenwick Iribarren Architects
  • Upper Concourse Level Plan | Stadium 974 | Fenwick Iribarren Architects | STIRworld
    Upper Concourse Level Plan Image: Courtesy of Fenwick Iribarren Architects

Project Details

Name: Stadium 974
Location: Ras Abu Aboud, Doha, Qatar
Capacity: 40,000
Year of Completion: 2021
Client: Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy
Architect: Fenwick Iribarren Architects
Architect of Record: Meinhart Group
Structural Engineer: Schlaich Bergerman & Partners
MEP Engineer: Hilson Moran Engineers
Project Management: TIME Qatar
Design and Build Contractors: HBK Contracting WLL (Qatar)
Construction Supervision: WSP

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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