Populous draws from Milan’s architectural icons in ‘The Cathedral’ stadium design

Envisioned as a new development dedicated to sport and leisure on the site of the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, the proposal will create a new home for AC Milan and FC Internazionale.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Jan 05, 2022

Global design firm Populous’ vision for a new complex of sport and leisure in the San Siro district of Milan has been announced as the winning proposal to replace the iconic Stadio Giuseppe Meazza. Having edged out Manica and Sportium’s proposal, Populous’ project is the culmination of a venture that started as far back as 2019, to upgrade the relatively dated facilities of the current structure. Alongside a new home ground for two of Italy’s most decorated and revered football clubs - AC Milan and Internazionale, the practice has imagined a new development that is expected to extend beyond the bounds of stadium design, creating additional urban green spaces and cutting-edge sustainable infrastructure.

Inaugurated in 1926, the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, often referred to as the San Siro, is one of the biggest stadiums in Europe and the largest in Italy. The proposal, which aims to take its place has been christened 'The Cathedral' by Populous. Featuring a façade design that is said to be inspired by the aesthetics of two of Milan’s most famous architectural landmarks - Duomo di Milano and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele - the structure has been presented as a celebration of the city’s rich artistic and cultural heritage. Its exterior exhibits a rhythmic assembly of white ribs, as per Populous’ visualisations, displaying an eye-catchingly expressive front to the tens of thousands that are expected to flock towards it each week.

The building’s façade is said to inspired by two of Milan’s most recognisable landmarks - Duomo di Milano and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele | ‘The Cathedral’ New Milan Stadium Project | Populous | STIRworld
The building’s façade is said to inspired by two of Milan’s most recognisable landmarks - Duomo di Milano and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele Image: Courtesy of Populous

Paolo Scaroni, President at AC Milan, mentions in an official statement, “The new San Siro will be the most beautiful stadium in the world for its strong identity and recognisability. An attractive arena, accessible and sustainable for the city of Milan that will facilitate the growth of the clubs and their global competitiveness.” To this end, the project is likely to alter the makeup of the stadium’s context drastically, adding 110,000 sqm of green areas (40 per cent of the total site) as well spaces for sport and leisure activities that will either be open to the public or affiliated with the City of Milan.

Populous aims for the entire development to be pedestrianised, with state-of-the-art facilities and amenities | ‘The Cathedral’ New Milan Stadium Project | Populous | STIRworld
Populous aims for the entire development to be pedestrianised, with state-of-the-art facilities and amenities Image: Courtesy of Populous

The development will also be fully pedestrianised, with parking (which represents 27 per cent of the site area under the current plan) moved underground. Under the new scheme, a 50,000 sqm green area will be incorporated into the stadium’s surroundings. “The New Stadium of Milan will be in an extra-contemporary green area that can be lived all year round. This new district for sport and leisure and its 50,000 sqm park will make San Siro the go-to neighbourhood for sport and entertainment,” adds FC Internazionale’s Corporate CEO, Alessandro Antonello, in a press release.

According to the announcement, Populous’ Milan office will be charged with designing the new stadium, aided by the firm’s London-based EMEA team, forming a multidisciplinary cohort that will draft a plan to evaluate and improve its services while elevating the overall quality of the surrounding urban fabric. Managing Director – EMEA, Populous, Christopher Lee, says in a press statement, "The Cathedral will become one of the most iconic stadiums in world football. It will be a stadium for all Milanese to enjoy for generations to come that is true to the city and honours its heritage. A stadium of Milano and for Milano."

The practice also expects that the structure will offer unprecedented safety, comfort and sightlines | ‘The Cathedral’ New Milan Stadium Project | Populous | STIRworld
The practice also expects that the structure will offer unprecedented safety, comfort and sightlines Image: Courtesy of Populous

Declan Sharkey, the Senior Principal and General Manager of Populous Italia, echoes this notion in an official release, explaining, “Our design envisages the stadium as the most sustainable in Europe and the focal point of a new sports and entertainment district for Milano that will be alive throughout the year." Populous aims for the stadium and its adjoining green space to have a net-zero carbon footprint, and be LEED-certified, with cutting-edge measures to regulate water and electricity usage - honouring their pledge towards sustainable design. They also expect that the stadium's architecture will offer unprecedented safety, comfort and sightlines, as well as a range of new public services.

Site Plan | ‘The Cathedral’ New Milan Stadium Project | Populous | STIRworld
Site Plan Image: Courtesy of Populous

The project’s next phase will kick off in the ensuing months, with the practice aiming to present a final proposal at a later date in 2022. In an official release, Silvia Prandelli, Principal of Populous Italia, concludes, "The new Milano Stadium project represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write a defining chapter in the storied history of AC Milan and FC Internazionale Milano."

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