by Jerry ElengicalOct 20, 2022
Designing a sports stadium with panache, to keep up with technical and structural requirements of developing a building catering to thousands upon thousands of people, and its allied spaces for entertainment, retail, services, parking, circulation, and most of all, an unrivalled, sentient experience of spectatorship, is a Goliathan task to achieve. To manoeuvre this typology and ensure stunning aesthetics, is yet another challenge that is overcome by few. Out of the many ovals and bowl-shaped steel baskets fitted with rows upon rows of seats, few stand out in their endeavour to become architecturally and visually rich memorable venues such as the steel ribbon wrapped Bird’s Nest in Beijing designed by Herzog & de Meuron, or the newly unveiled golden Lusail Stadium in Qatar by Foster + Partners, ahead of the FIFA 2022 World Cup final which will be hosted here.
In juxtaposition, in much of the last three decades or so, China’s architectural landscape and rapid building construction have encompassed turning vast stretching, open agricultural lands and untouched natural countryside into urban city swathes, unabashedly embracing this growth in the name of modernity, success and mega-development. Few architects from the crop have cashed in on the wave with dignity, choreographing sites and building structures, in particular, large-scale typologies of stadium design and recreational complexes with an aim to bring its users closer to nature, deeming it as one of the building’s pillars.
Following a similar route is MAD Architects' latest undertaking, the first signature stadium of Quzhou Sports Park, comprising what is claimed to be the "world’s largest earth-sheltered buildings". Spanning 7,00,000 sqm, the Quzhou Stadium broke ground recently, essaying the heart of the organic, undulating complex taking residence in China’s Zhejiang Province. The Chinese architects describe the site where the stadium design has been unveiled – "Quzhou is a historic city 400 kilometers southwest of Shanghai and surrounded by dense forests to the east and west. Its sinuous exterior profile reflects the mountain ridge within distant view of the site while its landscape evokes those of planets imagined by visionary science fiction authors."
The architectural and design firm led by Ma Yansong (Founder of MAD Architects) shares that unlike the standard "fortress-like" stadiums built in urban areas across the world, they aimed to create one "that would embed much of the technology that went into its production so that it can instead be open to the surrounding public space from nearly every angle." The stadium thus comes together sans boundaries between its built layers and the surrounding, volcano-like, natural landscape. The undulant topography also informs the organic shape of the Chinese architecture, appearing as a "halo hovering gently above the landscape" when seen from afar.
Yansong's idea of building a stadium as constructed nature, as a “poetic landscape that falls somewhere between that of Earth and Mars,” came alive with this project’s completion, which also denotes the first of two construction stages for the Quzhou Sports Park complex mega development, first announced to the public in 2018. It is set to include a 10,000 seat gymnasium, a 2,000 seat natatorium, a science and technology museum, hotel accommodations, youth centre and retail programs, as a set of buildings mushrooming organically from the earth as landmark architecture, the entire park coming alive as a cohesive sculpture.
With an impressive seating capacity of 30,000, the stadium architecture has been conceived by MAD Architects over four years, as a visual and proper continuation of the surrounding landscape, instead of contrasting it by standing out against it and using it as a mere background and unseen foundation. The stadium ground was considered not only as a dynamic space adjacent to the city’s urban centre which makes it amenable to athletic and leisurely recreation, but also as a stage that enables “spiritual connection” between people and nature.
The Quzhou stadium breaks away from the conventional sports architecture. It is conceived as a piece of land art that submerges itself into the nature and welcomes everyone to gather and share the sports spirit. – Ma Yansong
This became the underlying concept of the contemporary architecture, where the natural undulations of the surrounding topography carry onto the structure’s sloping façade design, where "visitors are encouraged to determine for themselves where the landscape ends and the building begins," he continues. Even after the stadium is closed, visitors can enjoy climbing atop the stadium, treating is as an active piece of the landscape.
The rolling geometry continues inside the public building with a crater-like interior, with select glimpses and frames of the city and the mountainous landscape, and the dense forest lands that lies beyond. Even the seating undulates according to the shifting surrounding scenery, along with an array of green shades that visually contrast a white canopy fixed above.
Described as the “newest crown jewel of the city,” the Stadium in Quzhou will be the largest building in the complex and is approached by walking through a canopy from one of the eight designated entrances, all created with complex double-curved surfaces that ripple overhead as frozen ocean waves. This canopy is supported by only nine drop points with a maximum span of 95 meters separating them, allowing the structure to seem afloat, in tandem with offering framed perspectives of the city from the generated vistas and various points of view.
We dream not only of creating an urban pace about sports and ecology, but also turning it into a unique land art park for the world, establishing a relationship between the city’s heritage and history of Shanshui culture. – Ma Yansong
Sixty sets of concrete column walls support the stadium, made of exposed wood-grained, fair-faced concrete sheet walls that add warmth to the design, and injecting texture to such a bare material, and subsequently, blurring the boundaries between the interior and exterior. The canopy’s interior is composed of self-supporting steel, onto which a translucent light-emitting membrane material was wrapped, in order to take on the complex geometry required for the long-spans of the structure.
Despite the monumental steel frame of the canopy, it appears lightweight owing to the light-transmitting synthetic polymer PTFE membrane that is wrapped around the lower half of the concrete architecture, composed of micro-perforations that aid in improving acoustic performance throughout the stadium. The canopy’s upper face employs a more solid PTFE membrane that prevents rain from entering the massive seating bowl.
Apart from providing an intimate platform for optimum spectatorship, the mostly underground Quzhou Stadium is also integrated with a series of sustainable design features – besides the arena and its seating, the majority of the project’s facilities are situated beneath the ground plane, reducing the number of exposed facades and reducing dependance on artificial energy by a massive amount. All the concrete materials used for construction were locally produced instead of transporting it from elsewhere, minimising the carbon footprint.
Moreover, massive openings in the landscape ensure natural light to penetrate the parking garage, as well as the entry levels of the stadium, areas that remain typically shaded and require artificial lighting. “Across the entire structure, the stadium is engineered to absorb, store, and infiltrate rainwater, which will have the added effect of protecting the building from excess rain damage and leads to a substantial reduction in temperature fluctuations and energy consumption,” Yansong adds.
The outdoor signages is made of stone and metal embedded in the ground plane to blend into the landscape. The Chinese architecture and design studio also selected regionally-specific plants to include as "a piece of land art” augmenting the landscape design of the sports architecture, that need little to no maintenance while conserving water, as well as acting as a buffer between the city and the structure. In the overall complex, routes for pedestrians and bicycles will wind from one building to another, encouraging walking and biking.
"The design of the buildings placed throughout the park break away from the traditional way of highlighting the structural strength of athletic facilities to instead convey a subtle inner beauty. When complete, Quzhou Sports Park will become the largest earth-sheltered complex in the world, and will provide a much-needed contrast to the dense urban fabric of the region," shares Yansong, highlighting the crux of the Quzhou Stadium and the rest of the complex which is under construction, as a park where visitors will have the opportunity to slow down and rest amid the powerful and relaxing landscape.
The sinuous sports stadium reveals an example that strides confidently as public architecture that aims to keep circulation continuous and healthy, apart from being entrenched in nature. The earth performs as foundation, an inspiration as well as a material for the stadium, and Yansong reveals it will remain so for the other upcoming buildings of the complex as well, each with their own unique characters and functions.
Name: Quzhou Stadium
Location: Quzhou, China
Area: 33,731 sqm (stadium site area), 58,565 sqm (stadium building area); 6,10,556 sqm - Phase One: 327,370 sqm; Phase Two: 283,186 sqm (Quzhou Sports Park Masterplan Site Area); 390,074 sqm - Phase One: 269,474 sqm; Phase Two: 120,600 sqm (Quzhou Sports Park Building Area)
Year of completion: 2022
Client: Quzhou West District Development Committee, Quzhou Baoye Sports Construction and Operation Co., Ltd
Architect: MAD Architects
Principal Partners in Charge: MA Yansong, DANG Qun, Yosuke HAYANO
Associate Partners in Charge: LIU Huiying, Kin LI, FU Changrui
Design Team: XU Chen, LI Cunhao, LI Guangchong, LI Gang, Iting LIEN, Kyung Eun Na, MA Yin, Thoufeeq AHMED Alessandro FISALLI, LI Hui, Tian JIN, ZHANG Kai, MA Yue, Melanie Weitz, ZHOU Haimeng, XIAO Yuhan, Yuki ISHIGAMI, Luis TORRES, SU Le, KANG Wenzhao, Pittayapa SURIYAPEE, YU Lin, Neeraj MAHAJAN, ZHANG Bo, Connor HYMES, ZHANG Yufei, WANG Qi, SONG Minzhe, CAO Xi, LIU Hailun, ZHANG Xiaomei, ZHENG Kangcheng
Architect of Record: CCDI Group
Landscape Architect: PWP Landscape Architecture, EADG, Yong-High Landscape Design Consulting Co.Ltd
Structural Engineer: Schlaich Bergermann Partner
MEP Engineer: SC Consultants Limited
Façade Consultant: RFR Asia
Lighting Consultant: Ning's Field Lighting Design
Signage Design: Kenya Hara (Nippon Design Center, Inc.)
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