The AJ’s Owen Pritchard casts his critical eye over proposed new football grounds for a trio of London clubs
For fans of Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, the new designs for each team’s new stadium should be very welcome. Chelsea appointed Herzog and de Meuron to draw up a new ground on the current Stamford Bridge site, while Spurs have unveiled a 61,000 seat stadium - the third iteration of a design that has been through the offices of Make and KSS. Throw West Ham’s move to the Olympic Stadium into the mix and these are three schemes that, whether you like football or not, are going to be some of the most notable construction projects in the capital in coming years.
The one we know least about is Stamford Bridge. The limited number of renders that were released for the recent 3 day consultation don’t reveal much about what the inside of the £500m, £60,000 seat stadium will be like. We have been offered a tantalising glimpse of a brick gothic structure complete with flying buttresses, elevated viaducts and a colonnade. The pitch will be lowered 2m to allow extra seats to be introduced to the bowl. Chelsea, bankrolled by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, have been accused of having fans that lack passion, that the atmosphere in the ground can be tepid (a similar accusation levelled at Arsenal and the ‘Highbury Library’), the increased numbers in a stadium that will have a distinct personality will go a long way to change that. Chelsea in recent years are the most successful of the London clubs, Herzog and de Meuron have delivered some of the best and innovative stadium designs in the world - notably the ‘Birds Nest’ in Beijing and the Allianz Arena in Munich. More recently the stunning Grande Stade de Bordeaux for French Ligue 1 side Girdins de Bordeaux shows what Herzog and de Meuron are capable of (see AJ 10.06.15). Chelsea are known as a club for lavish spending on quality players, it seems that their new stadium follows suit. Soon, when the results of the consulation are revealed and the scheme progresses, we will know if the residents of Fulham Broadway and the planners are keen to see Abramovich’s fortress of football rise from the tawdry mess that is the current stadium.
The latest design for Tottenham Hotspur FC unveiled by Populous is an altogether more familiar affair when it comes to the overall design, a bowl wrapped by a concourse and shiny skin, but two design decisions catch the eye. The first is the retractable pitch - this will allow the stadium to be used for other purposes without damaging the hallowed turf. As such imposing structures ,it is a shame that stadiums are often left unused so much of the time, the dexterity the retractable pitch offers will allow the building to serve a multitude of purposes - gigs, other sports, public gatherings. The decision to introduce a 17,000 seat, single tier stand (a rethink of Liverpool’s famous Kop - see below) will produce an intense atmosphere, even on a Thursday night in second-string European competitions. The team developing the project , led by Christopher Lee, delivered the stadium for Spurs’ local rivals Arsenal, the new stadium appearing like an evolution of the emirates. Populous might be playing it safe here, Spurs and its famously belligerent chairman Daniel Levy will be aware of the success of the Emirates and clearly haven’t asked for something as ostentatious as the Estadio de Futbol Monterrey in Mexico that completes this year.
Finally, West Ham will move to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford next season, also designed by Populous. As the backdrop to the wildly successful 2012 games, the nation is familiar and fond of the structure. The cost to retrofit the stadium has risen to over £250 million, pushing the total cost to over £700 million. It raises the question of how sensible it was to build a stadium for an event, then pay again to make it work for a different purpose (the Etihad in Manchester was a similar project after the Commonwealth games).
These projects will transform the parts of the city they occupy and will go someway to bring the architecture of stadiums in the UK to a standard that is parallel to the elite sport it hosts. Of the three schemes, similar to what happens on the pitch, Chelsea is the team that will be setting the standard for its rivals to aspire to.