Game On: These Stadiums Scored Podium Finishes at the A+Awards

Architects are pushing the bounds of aesthetic and technological precedents in stadium design.

Hannah Feniak Hannah Feniak

Have you designed a sports facility that deserves celebration? Consider entering the one of several related categories in the 9th Annual A+Awards. Remember to submit your projects before April 23rd to be in the running.

Across the world, sports hold massive cultural capital; they do not simply draw millions of viewers, but more importantly, bring groups together to celebrate ambition, athleticism, loyalty and teamwork, along with a host of other human values. In this sense, the architecture of sporting events is expected to do more than simply hold an audience; it must represent the resounding importance that these events hold in the popular imagination. Indeed, the widespread popularity of soccer, tennis, and track, among many other sports, has been bound to significant investment in state-of-the-art stadium design, often allowing architects to push the bounds of aesthetic and technological precedents.

Dating back to the Roman period, stadiums have been major monuments in city skylines for millennia. From FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou to the Beijing’s National Stadium of 2008, their power to represent locales and inspire entire populations remains uncontested in the present. Stadiums are, quite simply, iconic. Yet, despite this typology’s long history, designing a recreational facility remains a massive undertaking to this day: Spatially, the building must channel tens of thousands of spectators, allowing them to quickly arrive at their seats to view the main event. At the same time, offices and commercial activities must be accessible. Flexibility is often valued so that space can pivot its function to hold an entirely different event with its own distinct set of requirements. Finally, the building’s visual presence should make a memorable statement, making it stand out and inspiring local pride and identity.

The following A+Awards-winning sports centers deftly tackle these challenges with skill and innovation, setting new standards for what recreational facilities can do for their communities. Be inspired by the unique solutions they found to this complex design challenge.

iconic stadiums BIT Sports Center by Atelier Alter Architects, Beijing, China

iconic stadiums BIT Sports Center by Atelier Alter Architects, Beijing, China

iconic stadiums BIT Sports Center by Atelier Alter Architects, Beijing, China

BIT Sports Center by Atelier Alter Architects, Beijing, China
Popular Winner, 2020 A+Awards, Sports & Recreation – Gyms & Recreation Centers

Combining three double-curvature surfaces into a single, united form, the sinuous roof of this Sports Center and Stadium frames the entrance to the new campus of BIT, gently carving a unique space in the Beijing skyline.  While the architects cite Leonardo Da Vinci’s “flying machine” as their source of inspiration, the flowing horizontal form is more than a reference to engineering experiments of the past—trajectory parabolas constitute a significant research area at BIT and the concave rooflines gesture to the activities that take place within its walls.

The design promotes spatial porosity at both urban and architectural scales, for instance, by nesting programs within one another vertically or by elevating seating areas to open up the ground level. In so doing, it can offer about 170, 000 square feet of athletic space total, including a 3000 seat basketball hall, a 10 lanes swimming pool, a gymnasium, a martial art center, and rooms for boxing, taekwondo, table tennis, and more.

iconic stadiums Ariake Gymnastics Centre by NIKKEN SEKKEI, Tokyo, Japan

iconic stadiums Ariake Gymnastics Centre by NIKKEN SEKKEI, Tokyo, Japan

iconic stadiums Ariake Gymnastics Centre by NIKKEN SEKKEI, Tokyo, Japan

Ariake Gymnastics Centre by NIKKEN SEKKEI, Tokyo, Japan
Jury Winner, 2020 A+Awards, Sports & Recreation – Stadium/Arena

Initially envisioned as a temporary international sports competition facility for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, this impressive wood structure was also designed to later take on a second life as a permanent exhibition hall. Timber plays a prominent role throughout the design, serving as an homage to both the site’s historical use as a timber storage area and traditional Japanese construction preferences. Indeed, the frame structure, facade, spectator seats, and exterior walls are all built of nationally sourced wood. What more, the 25, 000 square foot ceiling vies for the title of the world’s largest timber roof. This material provision also reduces the weight of the overall structure while offering beneficial acoustic properties and thermal insulation.

iconic stadiums Zaozhuang Stadium by Shanghai United Design Group, Shandong, China

iconic stadiums Zaozhuang Stadium by Shanghai United Design Group, Shandong, China

iconic stadiums Zaozhuang Stadium by Shanghai United Design Group, Shandong, China

Zaozhuang Stadium by Shanghai United Design Group, Shandong, China
Popular Winner, 2020 A+Awards, Sports & Recreation – Stadium / Arena

This Class A stadium can host up to 40,000 spectators for both national and international competitions. More than just a sports facility, the project comprises a garden green city park complete with infrastructure capable of functioning as a canal water system. Within this green environment, the stadium and other facilities are scattered. For Chinese nationals, the symbol of a red lantern is widely associated with family reunion, prosperity and the main stadium was conceived with this image in mind. The wavy steel structure is visible on the facade, alongside a number of advanced industrial technologies, such as the first pre-stressed cross cable membrane structure in China, siphon drainage technology with maximum slope, curved steel structure system, etc.

iconic stadiums Hangzhou Asian Games 2022 by Archi-Tectonics, Hangzhou, China

iconic stadiums Hangzhou Asian Games 2022 by Archi-Tectonics, Hangzhou, China

iconic stadiums Hangzhou Asian Games 2022 by Archi-Tectonics, Hangzhou, China

Hangzhou Asian Games 2022 by Archi-Tectonics, Hangzhou, China
Popular Winner, 2020 A+Awards, Sports & Recreation – Unbuilt Sports & Recreation

This imaginative design envisions buildings as objects in the landscape, or, more precisely, like pebbles in a river. In collaboration with !Melk landscape design, Mobility in Chain, and Thornton Tomasetti structural engineers, Archi-Tectonics NYC created a multi-functional sports park with a table tennis and a field hockey stadium, a semi-recessed fitness center and visitor center, a sunken shopping mall and multiple parking garages, with a total construction area of 225, 000 square yards.

The design comprises two main stadia. One is primarily meant for tennis, and the other for field hockey. The former, a glass diagrid volume with a single brass ring, invites visitors to meander. Meanwhile, the latter relies on Meinong oil-paper umbrellas to uphold its diaphanous curved wing, which swoops over the green hockey field below. In this way, the two iconic forms anchor either end of the long strip of landscaped site, encouraging visitors to remain connected while indoors.

iconic stadiums Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre by Iredale Pedersen Hook Architects with ATC Studio, Pingelly, Australia

Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre by Iredale Pedersen Hook Architects with ATC Studio, Pingelly, Australia

Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre by Iredale Pedersen Hook Architects with ATC Studio, Pingelly, Australia

Pingelly Recreation and Cultural Centre by Iredale Pedersen Hook Architects with ATC Studio, Pingelly, Australia
Jury Winner, 2020 A+Awards, Sports & Recreation – Gyms & Recreation Centers
Project of the Year, 2020 A+Awards

Constructed in an Australian town best known as the home of the “Pingelly Tigers,” the first historic Aboriginal Australian Rules Football team. The stunning predominantly timber facility is composed of four pavilions that are linked by a long verandah. Acting as a viewing platform to watch field sports, these outdoor spaces are high-traffic, flexible spaces that serve myriad year-round activities.

A key element in the concept design was the need for a sustainable, memorable building that is easily maintained and flexible enough to meet the community’s current and future needs. The decision to use plantation hardwood in flooring, decking, cladding and paneling was central to this. Timber panels line the Multi-Function Sports Hall’s interior walls; it also clads the recycled insulation batts, which provide a high level of thermal insulation and acoustic absorbance- making the space suitable for performances, larger events as well as sports games.

iconic stadiums Quzhou Sports Campus by MAD Architects, Quzhou, China

iconic stadiums Quzhou Sports Campus by MAD Architects, Quzhou, China

iconic stadiums Quzhou Sports Campus by MAD Architects, Quzhou, China

Quzhou Sports Campus by MAD Architects, Quzhou, China
Jury Winner, 2020 A+Awards, Sports & Recreation – Unbuilt Sports & Recreation

Construction is underway on the “vanishing” Sports Campus, which, when completed, will be the world’s largest earth-covered building.  Located in Quzhou, the park covers an area of 680 000 square yards, of which the total building area of the stadium complex and supporting facilities is 465 000 square yards. All in all, the project includes a 30,000-person capacity stadium, a 10,000-person capacity gymnasium, a natatorium, outdoor auxiliary training grounds, athlete service and experience center, as well as a science and technology museum and children’s place.

The verdant green slopes of the new complex will serve as roofs and walls for these recreational facilities and public space, making it impossible to distinguish where the terrain becomes façade and vice-versa. The activity within the sunken sports facilities extends into the public realm through a network of sinuous pedestrian trails and bike paths that echo the complex’s curvilinear profile.

Have you designed a sports facility that deserves celebration? Consider entering the one of several related categories in the 9th Annual A+Awards. Remember to submit your projects before April 23rd to be in the running.

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