South Africa's 'Theatre of Dreams' completed ready for World Cup in June
The refit of the FIFA World Cup Stadium (AKA The Soccer City Stadium) in Johannesburg, South Africa, has been completed just in time for the first match of the World Cup 2010 on Friday 11th June. With its vast tubular outer skin made from laminated fibre reinforced concrete panels, the structure has been repeatedly referred to as a ‘giant calabash’ (which is used for brewing and drinking beer). Two architecture firms worked in collaboration on this project – international firm Populous and locally based Boogertman Urban Edge and Partners. Bob van Bebber of Boogertman explains the reason behind the ‘calabash’ nicknames, stating: “we have an existing stadium bowl inside a pot- the bowl holds the ‘contents’ that are really the actions of watching and playing football. This ‘sharing’ relates back to the idea of sharing a bowl of food or a pot of beer with your friends.”
Eight earthy shades and two textures of panel were positioned on the facade using a computer randomisation. The rough textures and dusty colours were included as a ‘robust metaphor, distinctly African and yet ambiguous enough to embrace an entire continent’ to match President of the South African FA, Danny Jordaan’s requirement of ‘a very simple object that [is] easily recognisable and instantly identifiable with South Africa and the African continent as a whole’. The main feature of this distinctive design is the fact that the new stadium sits within the original shell of the former historic FNB stadium, whose remaining support system has been retained and painted dark grey in an effort to highlight it’s presence. The structural concrete profile of the existing building was extended to encircle the pitch, whilst the lower embankment has been rebuilt with in-situ off-shutter concrete in an effort to improve the sight-lines of an additional 24,700 seats. Covering roughly three-quarters of the seats is a cantilevered roof, whose under-slung fabric is coloured to match the surrounding landscape of mine dumps.
A new players’ tunnel has also been incorporated into the design, however Boogertman and Populous have put their own original spin on it. Bebber explains: “Because of its location in Johannesburg, we created a new players tunnel and decided to turn it into a horizontal mine shaft. There is exposed concrete, there are soils visible, all the structure and the services are left uncovered as they would be in a mineshaft.” Both architects note how important it is for the stadium to make a statement about the nation as a whole, bringing people together as well as attracting investment and displaying confidence. Bebber notes how a focus has been put on ‘the way in which [the stadium] resonates within the local culture to such an extent that they feel they have ownership of the stadium; we have actually been hearing people saying that they want to look after it – which is an interesting way for people to react to a national asset!’