Doha’s Al Thumama Stadium
Stadiums and arenas have always been an occasion for celebrating engineering innovation. Furthermore, they create the possibility to donate to a city a new landmark to embed in the skyline. This time, a new masterpiece becomes the venue of the FIFA 2022 World Cup, 12 km away from the city of Doha in Qatar. It is one of the 12 stadiums designed for the occasion, and it is a work of the architect Ibrahim M Jaidah and his studio, the Arab Engineering Bureau. The construction work started in 2016, and it was inaugurated on the 22nd of October 2021, hosting the Amir Cup 2021 Final between Al Rayyan and Al Sadd.
The Stadium Design
The inspiration for the design comes from the typical Arab headgear gahfiya: it is a woven cup used by men and boys in the Arabic culture, usually with dense embroidery. In this case, this hat becomes the model for the stadium shape and the decorations for its envelope. The architect attempted at creating a design modern and technological, but at the same time celebrating the traditional culture. The gahfiya constitutes, in fact, a familiar symbol for Qatari, Arab and Islamic culture in general.
The project site is 5 km away from the main airport: a beautiful view of the construction is enjoyable while landing with the plane. The connections with the area are optimal for public transports and road accessibility: this should facilitate access to both local and international spectators.
The design consists of a circular external envelope, made of white cladding and decorated with an intricate pattern. The installed cooling technologies can lower the inside temperature up to 18 degrees. It occupies a surface of 51.54 hectares and can host up to 40000 people.
The studio that created and realized the design is AEB, Arab Engineering Bureau. For the first time in Qatar, a stadium has been designed primarily by local architects and engineers. The studio founded in 1966 was the very first engineering and consulting firm in Qatar. The chief architect, Ibrahim M Jaidah, is already famous for other projects such as Ritz-Carlton Sharq Village & Spa and the headquarter of the ministry of internal affairs. The reason for the success of this studio is the high-standard quality of design and materials employed.
The Construction Timeline
The first time in which they shared at the international level was in 2017 with an exposition of a large-scale model of the overall site at the Hamad International Airport. In 2018 the project received the prestigious MIPIM/Architectural Review Future Project Award in the Sport and Stadiums category. In November 2018, up to 80% of the construction of the concrete frame was completed and the work for the upper-tier steel structure was in progress. In 2019 the chief architect informed the Europen Stadium & Safety Management Association (ESSMA) during a Summit in Porto of the future transformation of the capacity of the building: from 40000 to 20000, thanks to the modular upper-tier seating section.
In September 2020, with the collaboration of Hamad Bin Khalifa University, a pilot study on the air-quality was possible thanks to a monitoring system installed in AL Thumama Stadium.
Once the World Cup comes to an end, the plan for the stadium foresees a reduction of the available seats, part of which will be donated to countries that necessitate sports infrastructures. The function as a venue for sportive events will be maintained, also in the surrounding area, becoming a site for a community hub with different sport facilities. Furthermore, infrastructures for retail and commercial activities, together with a mosque and a boutique hotel, will be implemented.
Al Thumama and Sustainability
One of the reasons why the project won such a prestigious award as the MIPIM/Architectural Review Future Project Award, apart from the design commemorating the traditional Arab culture, is its environmentally friendly approach. First of all, the possibility of employing other new activities on the construction, once its function as a stadium will be completed, demonstrates the flexibility and the possible future use thanks to the technologies installed. Then, the latest energy efficiency standards are met by the existing energy centre on the site.
The irrigation of the green areas is possible thanks to recycled water, and 84% of the landscape is covered by trees. In other words, it represents a boost of green inside the city of Doha. The technology of the cooling system exploits solar energy, and the overall design conception aims at decreasing the carbon footprint of the building in the long term. The target is a four-star Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) certification for construction and design.
The Al Thumama Stadium represents the perfect blend of new and old. Of technology ad tradition. Of past and future. It resembles a garment typical of Islamic and Arab culture, to become as close as possible to the familiarity of Qatari. But at the same time, it is highly technological and innovative, respecting the environment and planning new possibilities for the future.
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