It may be reasonably argued that a stadium poses just as much of a spectacle as the game it hosts. Although established by the Romans to facilitate combating sports with a provision to accommodate an enthusiastic audience for the sake of recreation for the local folks, stadium designs have experienced major transformations over the past centuries as intentions to serve larger purposes have risen.
The modern era expects this single structure to symbolize the strengths and identity of the region hosting the event, to lure people from various parts of the globe and unite them with a common interest, without compromising on the requirements of the sport and comforts of the athletes.
And hence, fresh ideas and advancements are constantly developed in the design of stadiums, and this article showcases some of the best venues around the world for one of the most celebrated sports, that is, football.
Listed below are the 10 most innovative football stadiums ever built.
1. Allianz Arena, Munich, Germany
Completed in 2005 by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, the Allianz Arena is the home stadium for Munich’s two main local football teams. The most remarkable feature of the stadium is the exterior cladding made of 2,874 translucent diamond metal panels of ETFE (ethylene-tetrafluoroethylene copolymer).
These panels can be illuminated separately in the colours red, blue and white; red and blue representing each of the two local teams and white to support the German national team. The roof membranes weigh only a thirtieth of the weight of glass, and are self-cleansing and ventilated.
2. Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland
The national football stadium of Ireland, the Aviva Stadium is home to both the Irish rugby and the football teams. Post completion in 2010, the stadium has been recognised as one of the innovative football stadiums in terms of sustainability and site responsiveness. Populous architects were constrained by the presence of residences on the north and south edges of the site and hence developed an undulating structure of differing heights to avoid blockage of light and ventilation to the surrounding settlements.
Moreover, the façade is clad with polycarbonate louvers and glass that reflect the sky and give an impression of a lighter mass.
3. Kaohsiung National Stadium, Zuoying District, Taiwan
Designed by Japanese architect Toyo Ito for the 2009 World Games, the National Stadium (Kaohsiung) is a multi-purpose stadium used mostly for football matches. The roof of the semi-spiral, dragon-shaped stadium is installed with 8,845 solar panels to suffice the power generated by the stadium and to potentially power up to 80% of the neighbourhood. The stadium yields about 1.1 million kilowatt-hours of energy per year.
4. First National Bank Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
Popularly known as Soccer City, this innovative football stadium, redesigned by Populous architects and Boogertman Urban Edge + Partners, was an icon for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The structure was designed to honour African culture with a resemblance to the appearance of traditional local pottery and a unique exterior that is screened by locally sourced fibre-cement panels of earthen colours to look like a mosaic of fire.
5. Showa Denko Dome, Oita, Japan
Designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa, the Showa Denko Dome, previously known as the Oita Bank Dome, primarily hosts football matches and is the home stadium for the local J.League club. However, it is also used for rugby tournaments. The structure is recognised for its retractable roof that mimics the blinking of an eye and is hence commonly called the Big Eye Stadium.
The two halves of the roof are pulled up and lowered along a spine, as required, with the help of wires controlled by winches at the bottom. Furthermore, an open slit is left at the joining of the roof and the spectator seating to allow natural ventilation and views of the surrounding landscape.
6. AAMI Park, Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne’s first rectangular stadium, AAMI Park was designed by Cox Architecture and completed in the year 2010. The characteristic feature of this innovative football stadium is the roof structure for the seating area that comprises a series of interlocking geodesic domes of triangular facets panelized with a combination of glass and metal. It is also fitted with LED lights that display a variety of colours and patterns to suit the events.
This technique of construction uses about 50 percent less steel than required for a typical stadium.
7. National Stadium, Warsaw, Poland
Built in 2011 as the home stadium for the Polish national football team, the National Stadium in Warsaw was designed by German architects Gerkan, Marg and Partners, and Polish architects JSK Architekci. The exterior façade is clad with anodized expanded metal wire mesh that is painted red and silver to reflect Poland’s national colours.
The roof is of steel wire nets and a textile membrane that is hung on freestanding steel supports with inclined tie rods.
8. Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, USA
The Mercedes-Benz Stadium, by HOK architects, serves as the home for both the Atlanta Falcons football team (American football) and the Atlanta United soccer team. The stadium is a true technological masterpiece that provides some of the best experiences to the fans during a match.
The structure is topped by a unique retractable roof consisting of eight triangular panels that open and close along individual tracks like a camera aperture. When open, a large oculus brings ample daylight to illuminate the extent of the arena.
9. Sapporo Dome, Hokkaido, Japan
Designed by Japanese architect Hiroshi Hara, the Sapporo Dome was completed in 2001 with remarkable futuristic features that make it one of the most innovative football stadiums that are praised to this day. The roof has been designed in response to the local climate; to slide off snow and reduce stress on the structure.
The most unique aspect of this multi-purpose stadium is the retractable grass football pitch that can slide in and out of the stadium by a pneumatic mechanism in only a matter of a few hours. This “hovering soccer field” sits on an underlying artificial baseball turf inside the dome.
10. Estadio Nacional, Brasilia, Brazil
Built in a city declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the Estadio Nacional Brasilia was redeveloped for the football World Cup 2014 to reflect and preserve the city’s architectural history and culture. Gmp architects collaborated with Castro Mello Arquitetos and Schlaich Bergermann & partner to build the monumental circular concrete stadium with an esplanade along its circumference.
The characteristic feature of this esplanade is the concrete “forest of columns” that support a double-layered suspended roof of concrete and a translucent membrane. The stadium is also known for its sustainable measures such as the photovoltaic modules in the roof membrane and provisions for collection of rainwater.