12 July 2018
Grandiose, spectacular, quasi futuristic yet always functional – stadiums are increasingly turning into contemporary works of architecture, their design entrusted to internationally renowned architects. This is what has happened in Russia, where new stadiums have been built while others have been the focus of rehabilitation and updating – becoming drivers of huge urban redevelopment – in order to host the sporting event of the year: the 2018 World Cup. Which they will survive with pride.
Lužniki Stadium (Moscow)
The stadium that hosted the opening game and where the keenly anticipated final will be held is a celebration of Moscow’s architectural heritage and its most important, starting life as the Central Lenin Stadium in 1956. Monumental in style, the current Luzhniki Stadium redevelopment was carried out by local studios SpeeCH and Mosinzhproekt, respecting the original character of the layout, keeping the outer façade and rebuilding the interior. The tiers were entirely demolished. Like the original design, the helix-shaped plan is simple and imposing. The single ring of tiers encircles the pitch, creating a very powerful effect of communion and community for the fans. The exterior is in neo-Classical style, a series of square-based columns run vertically along the continuous façade around the stadium, which is almost eight storeys high. Tall narrow windows, in groups of three, are framed between one column and the next. A new colonnade has been built around the original front, supporting the new roof structure, in total harmony with the characteristics of the original façade behind it. The low, arched apertures at ground floor level serve as entry points, referencing the functional aspect of the ancient arenas. The roof canopy has been extended by 11 m, ensuring complete cover over all the seating areas, and a 900 m perimeter ring has been built at the top of the tiers, providing a walkway with a unique viewpoint from the stadium over the city. The frieze is decorated with images of athletes of all disciplines, underscoring the purpose of the stadium and the sports complex. The statue of Lenin continues to survey the entrance to the stadium at the end of the great avenue leading to the main entrance.
Otkrytie Arena (Moscow)
Completed in 2014 to a design by the Russian arm of AECOM (already involved in various sporting projects, not least the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta), in association with the London-based practice Sport Concepts Architecture and Dexter Moren Associates, Moscow’s second-largest stadium is a multifunctional structure. Thanks to a reticulated substructure, the façade is anchored by a “shell” comprised of some 600 red and white translucent glass rhomboid panels, inspired by the logo of the multi-sports professional club Spartak Moscow, who commissioned it. The cladding follows the curve of the stadium, reminiscent of the typical traditional Russian cupolas. The two levels of tiers around the pitch contain bright red seating. The cladding slightly overhangs the back row of the stands and the white reticulated structure on the four internal sides contrasts with the compactness of the tiers below it. The roof structure was designed to be lightweight, but with an excellent payload. Connected to the city by an underground system (the deepest in Europe) it was designed to encourage a particularly inclusive atmosphere during matches, thanks also the proximity of the tiers to the edges of the grass pitch. Like the Allianz Arena in Munich, the outside can be lit up in white and red for Spartak and white, red and blue for Russia. Once the World Cup is over, the district of Tušino surrounding the stadium will be redeveloped for residential purposes.
Saint Petersburg Stadium (St. Petersburg)
This futuristic-looking stadium – also known as Zenit Arena - is particularly avant-garde. Opened in 2017 at a cost of almost a billion euros, it is the most expensive stadium ever built. Built to a posthumous design by the Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa (1934-2007), it appears to want to melt into the surrounding landscape, thanks to the “tree-like” structural elements that support the imposing roof structure above the terraces. It was designed to be multifunctional, in order to host large-scale events and is part of an urban plan for the whole of Krestovsky Island, which includes landscaping and traffic systems to enable the entire area to be used by the citizens all year round. As well as incorporating cutting edge eco-sustainable and environmental technologies, the facility is itself a miracle of technology, with a system for moving the playing field further out (in order to keep the grass fresh for a year) and a retractable roof with a hot-air inflated membrane that can melt snow in winter and enables the structure to be used in all kinds of weather.
Saint Petersburg Stadium ® Mladen ANTONOV - AFP
Baltika Arena (Kaliningrad)
Designed by the Paris-based studio Wilmotte & Associés, the stadium was inspired by the Allianz Arena in Bavaria, and is an austere steel parallelepiped structure, with orthogonal façades, the upper part of which is temporary. After 2018, the upper floors will be dismantled and the roof lowered to increase its versatility. The project is the centrepiece of the new urban rehabilitation plan for Oktyabrsky Island, also being managed by the Paris studio. A network of canals is to be created, imprinting this part of the city with a powerful identity, along with new vegetation, an artificial lake, a marina for 100 boats, and new residential and commercial facilities.
Kazan Arena (Kazan)
A multifunctional structure (it also hosted the World Swimming Championships in 2015), the arena was designed by the international Populous studio, which also designed Wembley and the Emirates Stadium in London). It lies between the banks of the River Kazanka, with which it dialogues through the sinuous, water lily shaped roof and opened in 2013. The arena also boasts the largest, 4.000 m2, multimedia screen in Europe, half of which is in HD, on the side of the stadium.
Nižnij Novgorod Stadium (Nižnij Novgorod)
A very recent facility built by the Russian engineering company OAO Stroytransgaz (which also built the Volgograd Stadium), the stadium looks out onto the historic city centre and the city fortress (Novgorod Kremlin), designed by the Italian architect Piero Francesco in the early 500s. Its isolated position valorises the facility with regard to the urban fabric. Situated in an area of roughly 40 hectares, free of other buildings and on the bend where the Volga and Oka Rivers converge, the structure dialogues perfectly with the architecture of the cathedral designed by Aleksandr Nevskij, on the riverbank less than 500 metres away. The yellow ochre of the Orthodox cathedral and its eclectic shapes, which are a mixture of neo-Classical and neo-Gothic with splashes of Baroque, provide a counterbalance to the white and blue of the outer cylinder of the stadium, broken up by the slender triangular pillars that support the flat disc-shaped roof. The 88 concrete pillars surrounding the edifice create a vertical colonnade reminiscent of classical architecture and wraps around the stadium, rising from a podium giving access to the stands inside. The external immobility of the structure contrasts with the theme of movement at the heart of the stadium. The arena tiers form an internal block, protected and screened by the outer pillars. The steps leading from the forecourt to the podium create a mild vortex effect, underscored by the blue internal ramps leading straight to the stands. The contrasting of these diagonal effects following on from each other with the outer vertical pillars bolsters the strength of the edifice. The running waters of the Volga River are also referenced by the semi-transparent alternating white and blue sails, which screen the voids in the upper part of the stadium, between the second ring of tiers and the roof. The second ring of tiers ends with the usual sinusoidal contour, which optimises the view from every single seat. Blue is used for the interior of the stadium, while white serves to characterise the exterior. The entry walls in each section and all the service blocks (such as stairs and lifts) are marked in blue, while different shades of light and bright blue have been used for the seats. There is an open oval oculus in the middle of the flat disc of the roof, which is decorated with a pattern of semi-transparent polycarbonate panels in shades of blue and pale blue, visible on both sides. The roof structure is supported by interwoven reticulated steel girders, weighing 10,000 tonnes overall, and the entire roof extends over a 57,000 m2 area.
Nižnij Novgorod Stadium
Samara Arena (Samara)
Also recently built, this arena was designed by the GUS SO TerrNIIgrazhdanproekt studio and its spheroid “UFO” shape (3D surface from the rotation of a helix around one of its main axes), references the ties between the region and Russia’s aerospace programme. This is why the facility is also known as the Cosmos Arena. It is a distinctive shell shape, the classic shape of domed stadiums. The structure of the great domed roof was originally intended to be semi-transparent; the intersecting reticulated support beams were to have been illuminated, thus boosting the scenic impact and the reference to aerospace technology. However, the decision was then made to opt for a continuous steel covering that wraps round the entire stadium, terminating at ground level in a series of inverted triangles that give the idea of a structure that is about to “take off.” The maximum height of the dome is 60m at its central point, where an oculus allows light into the stadium. Inside, the stadium has a classic rectangular layout enclosing the playing field, almost independent of the circular plan external dome that wraps around it like a glass bell jar. The inner contour is undulating, as per the style of contemporary stadiums. The sinusoidal wave reaches a peak at the centre of the stands before falling away at the corners, which means that none of the seats are too far from the pitch. The curve is not continuous, but serrated, with a series of “points” that replicate the external triangles with which the roof dome ends at ground level. The external and internal structures complement each other, despite their very different shapes, increasing the feeling of inclusion inside the stadium. There are plans for a residential district to be built around the arena.
Samara Arena ® Mladen ANTONOV - AFP
Volgograd Arena (Volgograd)
This newly built multifunctional facility, designed by the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Sport-Engineering, opened in Spring 2018 on the site of the old Central Stadium. It is characterised by a large white and blue cable-stayed roof, rather like a bicycle supported by high-tensile steel ropes. The shape of the façade, with exposed trusses, is conical and narrows as it nears the ground to respond to the need to keep the surface area to a minimum.
Volgograd Arena ® Mladen ANTONOV - AFP
Mordovija Arena (Saransk)
An avant-garde structure designed by the Russian SaranskGrazhdanProekt practice, the arena is destined to become the largest sports and recreation centre in the district. The concept is based on the image of the sun, inspired by the myths and legends of the Mordovian people. The terraces are built onto a two-storey plinth, while an ovoid convex shell covered with pierced metal panels in orange, red and white, pays homage to the distinctive range of colours used in local arts and crafts, forms a sort of canopy above the terraces.
Mordovija Arena ® Mladen ANTONOV - AFP
Rostov Arena (Rostov-On-Don)
Inaugurated in late 2017 and designed by Populous, the arena is characterised by its irregular-shaped roof and supports, intended to reference the adjacent meandering river and inspired by the traditional ancient Russian Kurgan, or tumuli, that were a feature of this particular area. It was the first large-scale intervention on the south bank of the River Don and will act as a focal point for investment and new development in this part of the city. Some of the seating is temporary and will be dismantled after the World Cup.
Fišt Stadium (Soči)
This ambitious structure, designed by the Populous studio was previously used for the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2014. It underwent some restructuring prior to the World Cup, but its iconic shell-like design, inspired by the Fabergé egg and reminiscent of a snowy mountain peak, survives unchanged. The roof, supported by reticulated girders, consists of a continuous glass surface that reflects the sunlight coming off the sea. The shell opens to the north with a direct view of the mountains and to the south with a view over the Black Sea.
Ekaterinburg Arena (Ekaterinburg)
The only city to the east of the Ural Mountains hosts an arena built in 1953, characterised by a main façade featuring neo-Classical Soviet-style details. It has been extended for the World Cup, with additional stands that will be dismantled once the championships are over. The two temporary structures are notable for the way in which they protrude from the stadium, giving the impression of being external to it.