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Populous in last two for Milan’s San Siro stadium replacement


Populous is vying against US/Italian consortium Manica/Sportium in the battle to design the new San Siro stadium in Milan

The iconic home of the city’s two teams – AC Milan and Inter – will be controversially demolished under proposals set out this summer, with a smaller 60,000 stadium to be built next door. 

Populous’s proposal, dubbed The Cathedral, is inspired by two of Milan’s two most iconic buildings: the Duomo and the Galleria. The design is being driven by its London office in conjunction with its Milan team, led by Italian sports architect and ex-Gensler director Alessandro Zoppini. 

‘It will be the greatest football stadium in Europe – more sustainable than any other with an incredibly tight and atmospheric seating bowl,’ said Populus managing director EMEA Christopher Lee.

Meanwhile, the Manica/Sportium bid envisages ‘two rings’ to represent each set of fans using the faces of 16,000 supporters, as well as a new park square. The consortium’s team comprises three architects: David Manica, Giovanni Giacobone (CEO Sportium) and Massimo Roj, chief executive of Progetto CMR, which owns Sportium.

US-based Manica, which specialises in sports and entertainment buildings, was founded in 2007 by David Manica, who previously worked for HOK Sport on the 02 Arena, the new Wembley Stadium and the Beijing National Stadium. The firm is based in Kansas City with offices in London and Hong Kong. 

The proposed £630 million stadium, which will be built to the east of the San Siro while the ground remains in use, is expected to be completed for the start of the 2022/23 campaign. However, there is no word on when the competition winner will be announced and there have been suggestions in the Italian press that key deadlines with the municipality have already been missed.

There has also been a recent report alleging that the Milan teams were considering a partial U-turn on demolition. An article in the Milan-based Corriere della Sera newspaper hinted that the brief could be rewritten to make the design teams conserve part of the original ground.

‘Milan and Inter are thinking of “adjusting” the concepts presented a fortnight ago to “save” at least a concrete sign of the Milanese temple of football,’ the paper reports. ‘And perhaps to soften the resistance of politics, citizens and at least a part of the same Rossonerazzurri (Milan-Inter) supporters to the project that effectively erases almost a century of history.’

AC Milan have been playing at the ground since it was built in 1925 and have shared it with rivals Inter Milan since 1947. In the 1950s, the ground had 19 external pedestrian ramps added to it, followed by 11 concrete cylindrical towers (designed by Ragazzi and Partners 1987-1990) as part of a major overhaul ahead of Italy’s World Cup in 1990.

Asked by the AJ if the design brief had changed to retain part of the stadium, David Manica replied: ’No comment.’      

sketch s.siro ragazzi and partners 5

Sketch of San Siro stadium by Ragazzi and Partners (1990)

Sketch of existing San Siro stadium by Ragazzi and Partners (1990)



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Readers' comments (5)

  • Populous have signed up to Architects Declare. I would like to know more information about their proposal with regards to the pledges:

    Upgrade existing buildings for extended use as a more carbon efficient alternative to demolition and new build whenever there is a viable choice.

    Evaluate all new projects against the aspiration to contribute positively to mitigating climate breakdown, and encourage our clients to adopt this approach.

    Adopt more regenerative design principles in our studios, with the aim of designing architecture and urbanism that goes beyond the standard of net zero carbon in use.

    Minimise wasteful use of resources in architecture and urban planning, both in quantum and in detail.

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  • I was just about to comment and realised Will Jennings has beaten me to it...

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  • I find it a little difficult to be critical of the two Milanese clubs and their architects for opting for a new stadium rather than a refurb of existing San Siro.

    In terms of the heritage and tradition, we go through this ritual with every new stadium. A period of sentimental angst and outrage, a few objections, a gushing farewell to the old place (maybe Bruce Springsteen writes a song about it), then everyone falls in love with the new place. It happens all the time, even with the oldest venues.

    Then there's the environmental argument. But I think it's a bit rich for us to be lobbing criticisms from the UK at two big, historic European clubs that continue to coexist within a single stadium. The story here is that a city the size of Milan, with two major clubs, still only needs one stadium. Why is it so far-fetched to imagine this for Liverpool and Everton? Or Man City and Man United? Or all the different London clubs? (Plus the big extra one that we only use for the national team and One Direction concerts?)

    There is story in the world of stadia about EPIC environmental waste. It's not in Milan.

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  • I wasn't so much criticising, than just suggesting any architect who is signed up to Architects Declare should publicly state how any project relates to the pledges, otherwise the pledges remain distinct from real projects and not something to be continually tested against.

    There will be logical reasons in many instances for not always aligning to the pledges, but if they are acknowledged in press releases & discussion then at least it can be a public conversation.

    But, more importantly, having been to the San Siro to see Ipswich Town play (and lose against!) Inter, those never-ending spirals will be a huge loss to stadium architecture! Not to mention the power of turning the corner from the stables and seeing that wonderful roof towering above.

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  • Let's face it, "Architects Declare" was demonstrably a pretentious, bandwagon-hitching, empty gesture within minutes of it being published, from the 'tulip' outwards. Sickening; and time for a new resources-guarding commitment from architects of integrity who say what they mean and mean what they say. Who will rise to this? Time for the RIBA to at last do something for ALL its members, not justed the celebrated?

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