Football World Cup in Brazil World Champions in Stadium Construction

German architects and engineers are planning green stadiums for the Football World Cup in Brazil.

Estádio Nacional Brasilia, Brazil Estádio Nacional Brasilia, Brazil | Photo: gmp, Rendering Like the Olympic Games, world, European and American football championships represent enormous endeavours for their host countries. After all, organising a couple of games in already existing stadiums is just not enough. It is far more a matter of hosting a three-week long international festival and a world-class media event with many thousands of guests. And hotels, local and regional public transportation, highways, airports, all premium-standard, are required, as dictated by the powerful football federations FIFA and UEFA. The effort and expense are so great that now neighbouring states have been partnering to host such an event, in 2002 Japan and South Korea, in 2008 Switzerland and Austria, and in 2012 Poland and Ukraine.

German architect teams in demand internationally

National Stadium Warsaw, Poland National Stadium Warsaw, Poland | Photo: Markus Bredt After the experiences of the last few years, not one of the available stadiums could even come close to satisfying the football federations’ high requirements, and therefore every two years a dozen new or remodelled large-scale stadiums are opened in the host countries. The arenas were mostly designed by architects from English-speaking countries until the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Since then, German architect teams are in demand internationally. RKW and HPP from Düsseldorf, and above all Gerkan, Marg und Partner (gmp) with headquarters in Hamburg, are now regarded as market leaders. The have designed well over 60 stadiums, two dozen have been realised or are currently under construction, whether in Europe, Africa, the Near East, China or South America.

Standards in structural framework technology

National Stadium Warsaw, Poland National Stadium Warsaw, Poland | Photo: Markus Bredt Three World Cup stadiums were built according to their plans in South Africa in 2010, and they are also the builders of the National Stadium in Warsaw and the Olympic Stadium in Kiev for the 2012 European football championship. And these stadiums are always the most functional, most elegant and most beautiful arenas. If one inquires as to the reason, the structural frameworks are what always come to the forefront. The image that these large-scale buildings present is primarily characterised by constructive features. Large roofs and span-widths are borne by formidable engineering constructions. And at gmp, the latter mostly are developed in cooperation with the engineers schlaich bergermann und partner (sbp) from Stuttgart. They have set the bar as a tandem team.

Outstanding material efficiency

Nelson Mandela Bay Arena, Port Elisabeth, South Africa Nelson Mandela Bay Arena, Port Elisabeth, South Africa | Photo: Markus Bredt The tensile structure supports with which they span the larger stadiums enchant the viewer with their fragility and lightness. They function like a spoke-wheel, with the pressure ring on the outer rim of the stadium and the interior tension ring around the open “eye” above the playing field. In between, the radial cables are stretched like spokes and carry the roof skin, mostly a translucent membrane. These constructions, for instance in the Cape Town stadium in Cape Town and in the National Stadium in Bucharest, are practically unrivalled in material efficiency. In comparison: the dead-weight -payload ratio of the structural framework of Beijing’s Olympic Stadium (“Bird’s Nest”) is 85:15, in Cape Town 42:58; this means a savings of several tens of thousands of tonnes of structural steel.

Tensile structural support technology also enables roofing the stadiums completely. In Warsaw and in Bucharest a “garage” for the folding roof that can be extended within a few minutes and provides complete shelter from wind and weather floats in the centre above the playing field.

Diversity of constructions

The perfect viewing conditions, the uninterrupted, elegant curve of the stadium without knuckle lines, the effective, comfortable access points and the consummate architectural design and thorough-going implementation right down to the last detail are and remain constants in gmp stadiums. For all their parity in terms of principle and system – after all, it is always the same playing field surrounded by stands – the stadiums are astonishingly diverse and uniquely characteristic in their appearance. The stadium in Warsaw is like a traditional beehive in the Polish national colours, a starry sky in Kiev, a modern colosseum in Bucharest, a bamboo forest and a crystal in Shenzhen, China.

New designs for Brazil

For the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, three stadiums are also arising according to the plans of gmp und sbp. While in the capital of Brasilia the interior with the stands is being built by the Brazilian architect Castro Mello, gmp and sbp designed the encircling “esplanade” with an annular roof (“Saturn’s ring”) standing on 288 round columns, and the suspension roof supported by a tensile framework. And Manaus, a city on the Rio Negro in the midst of the tropical rainforest, will also get a new stadium, with a basket-shaped form inspired by the foliage of tropical plants. It is smaller and therefore built differently, according to the principle of the support arm. The supports mutually stiffen each other and serve at the same time as wide gutters that let the masses of water from tropical rainstorms run off.

A sustainable football world championship

Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte, Brazil Estádio Mineirão, Belo Horizonte, Brazil | Photo: gmp, Rendering Brazil is committed to organising an ecologically-friendly World Cup. According to the demands of the local organising committee, the stadiums must be certified according to the criteria of the US Green Building Councils LEED. Location choice, transportation infrastructure, primary energy concentration of the construction materials, energy and water management, photovoltaic roofs, waste disposal and operation monitoring, and a considerable number of other criteria are judged. The architects of gmp, who are already accustomed to working in accordance with Germany’s established environmental standards, are assisted by the LEED procedure in implementing these qualities in the on-site building operations. Although the LEED standards were developed for office building construction and are not in every respect applicable to stadiums, Brazil’s ambition to host the first environmentally responsible and sustainable football World Cup deserves the greatest respect and commendation.