On the edge of the desert

In a part of the world where football traditionally is a curiosity and the conditions to play it are unfavorable most of the year, the challenge to design a large football stadium is an exceptional assignment. When Dubai authorities issued a tender to this effect in 2014 architects ZJA, in collaboration with Royal HaskoningDHV, designed Dubai Sports Central, to land the dream of a football stadium in the guise of a 21st century desert fortress at the edge of the city, in the reality of a Gulf state metropolis.

A designated traffic junction provides access to underground parking and the complex has its own metro station to allow for quick and easy access from all directions. Dubai Sports Central sits on a plateau, setting the majestic building off against the sky like a gigantic jewel. In Dubai a stadium has to offer much more than just the home of the local football club to be economically viable. Dubai Sports Central is based on the vision that ZJA developed, called The Ideal Stadium in which large sports facilities are seen as dynamic and flexible elements in the urban fabric. Designing a stadium in combination with commercial real estate, and anticipating the future need for hotels, residencies and public facilities such as schools, libraries and theaters makes sure a stadium is really a part of an adaptive and living city and is developed on a robust economic basis. In this design this is expressed in the lower ring, that lures visitors with transparent facades, shops and trees. Resting on ten sixty-meter high towers a second ring offers a separate world in itself.

Hanging gardens

Obviously the building is first and foremost a state of the art contemporary football stadium with all the indoor and outdoor training facilities, dressing rooms, sauna’s and physio rooms. It meets the international FIFA standards. But is a caravanserai as well, a fortress with inns and gardens, shops and squares to meet people, and including offices and apartments. In the lower ring the curved walls and the trees provide a cooling effect in a luxurious setting, resembling a souk. The second ring, resting on ten towers is so wide that a great diversity of functions can be housed there. Luxury hotels and apartments, surrounded by terraces, gardens and pools offer a spectacular view of the city, the expanse of the desert and the green enclave that is the pitch, the gardens and the shopping area below at ground level. In the future the sports functions can also be adapted to alternative urban use, such as in a park, a garden or a square. Seen from a large distance this stadium may resemble a recently landed UFO, up close it strikes one as a beautiful stadium, in the guise of a contemporary version of the mythical hanging gardens, the enclosed garden of paradise in the desert.

To complement the city

Approached from the desert the stadium comes across as a closed world, but arriving from the city, by car or by metro one easily sees how it complements the city, yes, offers itself as a compact and vital element of the city. It is an environment that is active 24/7 where people live, work and shop, where they visit the gym, go out to diner and attend the match. To accommodate all this the building meets the highest standards of accessibility, climate control and environmental design quality.

Shapes and silhouettes from the Middle Eastern tradition, the functionality of a top quality contemporary stadium and the luxury of a 21st century shopping and residential area all merge in this design by ZJA to create a new and progressive part of the city, where the experience of inside and outside, public and private come together fluently.

Principal: Dubai Sportscouncil
In collaboration with Royal HaskoningDHV
Year: Design competition 2014

Project: #774