Zaha Hadid and AECOM's Al Wakrah Stadium for Qatar gains an unfortunate comparison
This week the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee released designs by Zaha Hadid Architects and AECOM for the Al Wakrah Stadium for the FIFA World Cup. The team was announced in June 2013 but this is the first time that concept designs have been released to an eager public. The stadium itself is designed to seat 40,000 spectators with modular top tiers to lower capacity to 20,000 after the international sporting event.
The sinuous design has received mixed reactions from architecture critics, with The Independent terming the stadium ‘The Accidental Vagina’ and online reviewers noting similarities to Hadid’s Japan National Stadium, which played a key role in Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
In a statement released by the architecture practice, it is suggested that the design of the stadium is in fact derived from traditional fishing boats found in the region: “Located approximately fifteen kilometres south of Doha, Al Wakrah has served as a vital commercial port and a gateway to the capital throughout Qatar’s history. Al Wakrah’s tradition is reflected in the stadium design, which captures the essence of the traditional dhow, an Arabian pearl fishing boat.”
Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee said: “The stadium reflects what our country stands for from a cultural perspective. It is modern, futuristic and functional. But importantly, it remains true to our Qatari heritage with the design and materials inspired by the traditional dhow boat.”
Construction will begin on the stadium site in January 2014 and a tender for the main contractor is due in the second quarter of 2014. In Hadid’s commentary it is implicitly stated that ‘all construction contracts for the stadium will be issued in line with the Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee’s Workers’ Charter and Standards’.
This announcement comes in the same week that Amnesty International released a report entitled The Dark Side of Migration: Spotlight on Qatar’s construction sector ahead of the World Cup, which found widespread and routine abuse of migrant workers at the World Cup site. Through interviews with workers, employers and government officials, it was concluded by Amnesty International that non-payment of wages, harsh and dangerous working conditions and poor standards of accommodation are major issues in Qatar’s construction sector.
Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International said: “Construction companies and the Qatari authorities alike are failing migrant workers. Employers in Qatar have displayed an appalling disregard for the basic human rights of migrant workers. Many are taking advantage of a permissive environment and lax enforcement of labour protections to exploit construction workers.”