Some pretty stadiums

As might be the case with more than just one reader of this blog at the moment, I am currently pretty much completely immersed in the European Championship Football. I don't mean that I'm walking around my neighborhood, wearing an orange clog on my head, or that I go to work in a lions' suit or anything like that. It's just that I'm watching pretty much every game possible, and that I'm discussing tactics with friends and collegues. So as a avid football-watcher, this tournament is pretty interesting. But to be honest: as an architecture geek, it's not that fascinating at all: most of the stadiums that these matches are being played at, are quite bland and unspectacular. I don't mean that I'd like all stadiums to be spectacular, but it's nice to see stadiums in which the crowd relates really closely to the pitch, in which the conditions for fans, players, grass etcetera is optimized, and has a nice idea about sports appreciation or context behind it.
So I decided to dedicate this post to five random football stadiums that are "interesting", "special", "spectacular" or anything like that. It's just a collection of random stadiums that came to mind...

1. Allianz Arena - München (Germany)

The first one is a pretty obvious choice: I think everybody with even the faintest interest in architecture knows this stadium, by Herzog and DeMeuron. And even though the interior is pretty spectacular and grand, it is the facade that makes this stadium stand out. It's made up of ETFE-cushions that can be lit in three colors: red, blue and white. This is because the stadium is home to two clubs: Bayern München and 1860 München. If Bayern is playing, the stadium is lit in red (their club color), and in case 1860 is playing, the stadium is bright blue (which is their color). And the white, you might wonder? That's for games of the German National team.

2. Estadio Municipal - Braga (Portugal)

The stadium in Braga only has two lateral stands, supporting each other by means of steel cables. Eduardo Souto de Moura decided against putting seating against either of the goals, in order to take advantage of the spectacular site: The stadium is dug into Monte Castro mountain. Behind one goal, there is a granite wall of the mountain, and behind the other one, there's a spectacular view of the valley below.

3. Olympiastadion - Berlin (Germany)

The Olympiastadion was originally built for the 1936 Olympic Games by Werner March. It was intended to house 100.000 people. However, when you approach the stadium, it doesn't feel that gigantic. That's because it's sunk halfway into the ground: the part that is sticking out is only the upper ring of the stadium. This also means that , from ground level, you get views right into the stadium. And, of course, the entire stadium has a typical Nazi-monumentality to it. In 2004, a renovation to bring the stadium up to the level needed for the world cup 2006 was finished, done by Von Gerkan, Marg & Partner. They left many characteristics of the original stadium intact, but added a sleek roof over the stands.

4. "The Ring" - Maribor (Slovenia)

A stadium doesn't necessary have to be big to be beautiful. That's what Ofis proved with their stadium in Maribor. On a parkland, where a small concrete stand was built in the sixties, a stadium should be erected to house 12.500 people. The architects put a ring on top of a base filled with public programs. The ring slopes up and down, adjusting to the best views for the public.

5. Nou Mestalla - Valencia (Spain)

Granted, this stadium isn't finished yet and it's not quite certain what the stadium will finally look like - since it won't be finished until May 2009. But the images of the design show a potentially great stadium. It is designed by a cooperation of Arup Sport and Reid Fenwick Associates. There is a lot of talk about the design of the building, that would mimick the city of Valencia itself, with the river Turia and the different neighborhoods represented in the facade and all that... Well, to be honest, I don't care too much about phrases like that. The important thing is that the stadium is prone to look amazing from the outside, and will probably be spectacular from the inside, when 75.000 people are watching a game in there - all with a perfect view of the pitch because of the geometrics of the design.
And that is, of course, still the most important thing: the pitch. A stadium without a decent pitch is worthless. Just ask the people at Ajax Amsterdam...

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