Populous draws from Milan’s architectural icons in ‘The Cathedral’ stadium design
by Jerry ElengicalJan 05, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Nov 14, 2022
Known the world over for their innovative exploits that have brought biophilic architecture to the landscapes of prominent global metropolises, Stefano Boeri Architetti is now attempting to infuse their distinctive design language to the realm of stadium design with their recently revealed concept for The International Forest Stadium in Milan's San Siro neighbourhood. The proposed structure, which was envisioned as a new home ground for two of Italy’s most successful football clubs—A.C. Milan and Internazionale, has been imagined as the centre of a larger development consisting of a series of public spaces, parks, and commercial areas, all blanketed by dense sheets of vegetation, which will also wrap around the venue's façade. Devised in collaboration with other reputed practices including Arup, Fabio Novembre, and Balich Wonder Studio, the project's origins date back to 2019, with an architectural competition for the commission of the new Milan Stadium.
Now, with the start of public debates surrounding the demolition and rebuilding of the venue, the Italian architecture practice’s conceptual design has come to light once again, after little headway was made post the announcement of the winning proposal titled 'The Cathedral', by global design firm Populous. While their idea drew from Milanese icons such as the Duomo di Milano and the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele, Stefano Boeri Architetti’s features an abundance of greened surfaces—a hallmark of the firm’s style. Both proposals have put forth designs that will occupy the current Milan stadium’s site, which is alternatively referred to as the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza (Internazionale) or the San Siro Stadium (A.C. Milan) by fans from the two rival clubs.
Besides the stadium itself, the design scheme presented by Italian architect Stefano Boeri and his team will transform a chunk of the San Siro neighbourhood into an elite sport and leisure district under the city’s zoning regulations, taking up 800 hectares of urban space. According to the architects, one of the most significant obstacles to the project being realised, in its full form, lay in the relocation of the Patroclus road tunnel, which slices through the plot. By shifting this important piece of public infrastructure, the design posits a scenario where the main structure of the stadium could sit comfortably in the centre of a 4.5 hectare public park, whose greenery would extend onto the venue’s building envelope. Vertical forests produced by this facet of the design channel the aesthetic qualities of Boeri’s famous 'Bosco Verticale residential towers'. This arrangement also creates a buffer between surrounding residential neighbourhoods and the immense volumes of noise that will emanate from the stadium’s bowl during match days.
Hence, this venture in stadium architecture positions nature as the protagonist of the venue’s experience, creating what is touted as “a new urban landscape for all citizens.” The complete breakdown of the project’s green cover comprises 7,000 sqm of green façades, 5,700 sqm of horizontal green roofs, as well as 3,300 new trees and 56,300 shrubs that span approximately 70 unique species. In its role as a new 'green lung' for the city of Milan, the development’s extensive landscape design is expected to absorb over 162 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, improve air quality, and moderate some of the urban heat islands in surrounding locales.
In this vein, Stefano Boeri Architetti aims to bring a holistic outlook to sustainable design through this monumental endeavour. Moreover, the firm’s proposal also incorporates on-site energy generation by using solar panels on building surfaces, alongside effective water and waste management to ensure the project is relatively self-sufficient, optimising its lifetime emissions and energy consumption, and thereby reducing its overall carbon footprint. Additionally, the flow of functional areas throughout the development’s course is said to clearly provide distinctions in wayfinding between circulation routes for VIPs, spectators, staff, athletes, and visitors, offering easy access to separate programmatic functions, in a manner that can be readily comprehended by all.
Under the mixed-use program contained inside this landmark development, the stadium’s operational viability throughout the year will be augmented by a range of supplementary functions and flexible hospitality spaces to bolster community engagement. This includes program areas such as commercial areas, museum spaces, gymnasiums, press rooms, VIP areas, bars, and restaurants, which collectively serve to expand the stadium’s purpose beyond that of a sporting venue. However, the latter is still its primary function, evidenced in the provision of a running track along the structure’s upper tier.
Near the stadium, a rippling structure, rising towards the skies—christened the 'Tower of Light'—will serve as an illuminated icon within the development. Accommodating museums for both clubs, the peaks of the tower's spires also house statues of footballers and managers that are regarded as veritable legends in the pantheon of Milanese football. Lit up in colours that correspond to the teams present on the pitch, at any given time, the structure emphasises the two clubs' shared history, lending more weight to their unique 'One stadium for two' model of operation. The tower’s iridescent qualities will be at their most potent during the occasion of the Milan derby, when the two rivals contend for bragging rights each season.
Perhaps the most poignant statement under the scope of the proposal comes in the form of a memorial space, perpetually open to the public, which will maintain the memory of the former stadium and prevent its legacy from fading into obscurity. Through its multifaceted program which integrates a plethora of divergent functions, within the bounds of a single urban planning project, Stefano Boeri Architetti’s design scheme advocates for new approaches to sports architecture, giving precedence to urban rewilding and functional flexibility on a level that far exceeds conventional norms.
Name: San Siro - The International Forest Stadium
Location: Milan, Italy
Architect: Stefano Boeri Architetti
Interior Design: Fabio Novembre
Structural Design, MEP, Sustainability, Bowl Design: ARUP
Landscape Design: Michel Desvigne Paysagiste
Agronomist: Studio Laura Gatti
Show Design: Balich Worldwide Shows
Graphic Design: 46xy - Mario Piazza, TOMOTOM
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