Final warm ups for Euro 2012

Tuesday 12 Jun 2012

WAN takes a look at JSK and Schlaich Bergermann und Partners' National Stadium

With football enthusiasts worldwide gearing up for the biennial emotional rollercoaster of an international football competition, as ever it presents a unique opportunity for architects to reveal their latest designs and innovations on an international scale.

More so than ever, the focus on this year's championship may not be so much on the activities on the pitch as those off it. The social and economic controversies surrounding the host nations (Ukraine & Poland) mixed with the mandatory pre-tournament media frenzy ironically create the perfect canvas for architecture to take the centre stage and for the focus; albeit momentarily to shift to design.

Invited by the European Plastics Organisation, WAN attended a tour of the new National Stadium in Warsaw and as with all great stadia and manmade super structures the National Stadium initially takes your breath away. Suspended theatrically above the centre spot is a huge needle which acts as the main structural and focal point of the entire stadium.

Described as a bike wheel rotated onto its side, the roof structure was uniquely hoisted into position during construction. The mechanics of the design are clearly visible throughout, inviting the floating structure to demand even more respect and attention which is emphasised when the centrally housed retractable PVC roof emerges; should the elements deteriorate. Material advances have allowed the roof to be thin, light and strong. Due to this the roof can be housed discreetly and deployed quickly, expanding organically along the beams and providing a semi translucent protective coat from the elements.

The new construction is located on the same site as the old national stadium, overlooking Warsaw and adhering to the colour scheme of the national flag adding to a sense of grandeur and history upon approach to the National Stadium.

Whatever happens on (and off) the pitch as with all major sporting events all eyes will be scrutinising all facets, with everyone overnight becoming sports analysts, politicians and inevitably architecture critics, however the National stadium is a modest, well planned and meticulously executed design which most importantly provides an intimate (58,000 capacity) and vibrant experience, placing the fans as close to the action as possible. The use of innovative materials and unique engineering solutions create a stadium that is full of history before the games have even begun.

Sam Mansour

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