Qatar 2022 - Stadiums that score!
Written by Toby Osborne
Could the iconic golden trophy of the FIFA World Cup be making its way to the Middle East for the first time? Certainly, Qatar is rising to the challenge with its bid to host the most prestigious international football tournament in 2022.
To get the ball rolling, they have announced a show-stopping collection of stadiums, reflecting the country’s rich heritage and technological prowess.
“A FIFA World Cup is always an ideal platform to promote the cultural heritage and to showcase the country’s traditions,” says Joachim Schares, a Member of Management and Partner at AS&P – Albert Speer & Partner – the Frankfurt, Germany-based architects behind the stadium designs. “Therefore, some of our designs are inspired by the Qatari traditions of the past. While the other stadiums, we decided, should take their inspiration from contemporary assets, Qatar is a very, very advanced country in many terms and it’s one of the leading countries in the field of high tech in the region. So, it was obvious for us to showcase their achievements in this technical field as well.”
Tying in with this technological leadership – and living up to the vibrant ‘Expect Amazing’ campaign for Qatar’s World Cup bid – the stadiums are designed to be ‘green’, as they will be completely carbon-neutral utilising 100% solar-powered cooling systems.
Harnessing the hot rays over Qatar and turning them back into cool air, AS&P have been working with two leading international consulting firms, Arup and Germany’s Transsolar, to ensure the ambient temperature of each stadium is no higher than 27?C. “The target right from the beginning was not to use fossil fuelled energy to cool the stadiums, because this is not the right attitude in this day and age,” explains Schares. “So, a prototype has been developed, which is currently under construction; is expected to be ready in time for FIFA's visit in September. We have built a small showcase stadium, which is half the size of a regular pitch, so that FIFA can see and feel the solar technology that will be in place in 2022. We will be able to show them that the technology is already available and is functioning.”
As a result, with an impressive combination of environmentally-conscious and architecturally-creative designs; Qatar’s first five stadiums are attracting worldwide attention as feats of innovation, and works of art.
The Al-Shamal stadium is one of the traditional-style designs. Shaped like a dhow, a historic Arab sailing vessel, the 45,120 capacity stadium has sleek, curved edges and a fitting location, right on the coast. Minutes from the Qatar-Bahrain Friendship Bridge, which will be the longest free-standing bridge in the world, Al-Shamal overlooks a serene palm tree-lined beach, with a breathtaking view of the Arabian Gulf – this is a perfect example of how the architects have utilised the natural wonders of the region, in order to add further allure to the proposed structures. “Of course, Qatar is an amazing country,” notes Schares.
“Our team conducted extensive visits to Qatar. By travelling around, you get an impression of the country... We spent a lot of time on site, to create an individual inspiration. And we think this was crucial for our design process, and we are proud of the result.”
Continuing this oceanic motif, and another striking reminder of Qatar’s abundance of natural wonders, the next stadium, Al-Khor, echoes the exquisite shape of a giant sea shell. Yet, Al-Khor isn’t just a piece of art; its rippled rooftop also offers extra shade over the pitch.
In contrast to these traditionally-themed stadiums; the Al-Rayyan stadium is futuristic and bold, the expansive sides a living canvas, with IMAX-sized screens for walls. Termed a ‘media facade’ by the designers, this unique 39,000m2 (420,000 sq ft) membrane will keep football fans, inside and out, updated with the latest news, scores, and game highlights, so you won’t miss a single second of the action.
Al-Wakrah is similarly cutting-edge and forward-thinking, yet on a much grander scale. Set around the concept of a desert oasis, the site is planned to include a 45,000-capacity stadium, with an expansive sports complex, health spa, aquatic centre, training facilities, and even a shopping mall. Planned to be built beside the upcoming Doha Expressway, the sprawling state-of-the-art park will surround the centrepiece – the translucent dome of the Al-Wakrah stadium.
Finally, symbolic of the overall theme of a FIFA core value of ‘unity’, the Al-Gharafa is simply designed with a rainbow-ribboned kaleidoscope of colours, inter-woven around the exterior, representative of the many nations who will be taking part in the games. Al-Gharafa seems independent of the traditional versus futuristic stadiums, yet – at the beginning of the planning process – it was the original intention to merge the heritage of Qatar with space-age influences. “Yes, we wanted to originally bring past and future together, but we decided to avoid mingling them in one design,” says Schares.
“Instead, we decided to group one set of stadiums together, like Al-Shamal stadium, to represent the more historical part like this dhow shape, as well as other stadiums that haven’t been revealed so far. Meanwhile, the other group, like Al-Wakrah and Al-Rayyan stadiums, they are more futuristic-oriented designs, which show the future of the country. This is more or less the story behind it; some more oriented to the past, some designs inspired by the future.”
The Al-Rayyan and Al-Gharafa stadiums as well as Khalifa International Stadium are actually already constructed and would be repurposed for the World Cup. The other three designs – plus another six stadiums, which will be unveiled in the months that follow – would be built from scratch.
With a deadline of 12 years to complete these projects, Qatar seems well-prepared for this ambitious undertaking. “I think Qatar already shows an enriched development speed,” says Schares. “So, we are not afraid of the construction effort, because 12 years is quite a long time. I think that this allows proper planning, as well as proper project management. In addition, the country’s infrastructure will be upgraded significantly.”
So, considering all these plans and developments are underway, could 2022 be Qatar’s year, as the first Middle Eastern country to host the FIFA World Cup? “We are very optimistic that Qatar has a good shot to get the Cup awarded,” concludes Schares. “This will open the door for football development in the entire region and will hopefully usher in a new era.”
To stay up to date and pledge your support for Qatar’s 2022 bid, as well as further information on the latest stadiums, and Qatar 2022 bid ambassadors, visit the official website: www.qatar2022bid.com