Urban architecture and masterplanning takes many forms. Planning a large town, city, and any urban environment must take into consideration the numbers of residents, commercial entities, infrastructure, traffic flow, sanitation requirements, and a whole host of other considerations in order to be a success. Leisure activities have always played a central part in masterplanning and the creation of urban dwellings, and when you look back to even ancient times, stadiums have played an important role in many different times, and in many different forms.
In fact, stadiums provide us with some of the oldest, clearly recognisable form of urban architecture. Think back to ancient Rome and the Circus Maximus and the Olympia and other large stadia in Ancient Greece, and then come through to the birth of modern sport in the late 1800s with the Olympics in particular helping to create a lasting legacy of large, central stadiums that could house thousands of people at any given time. In the earliest days of Western civilisation, many stadiums were built prior to the large cathedrals and railway stations that many of us think of when looking at the history of great cities and the history of civilised urban architecture and infrastructure.
In modern times however, the sporting stadium has taken on a different tone altogether, one of frustration and ever-increasing sums of money in order to fund construction. You can find many examples of stadiums that have been built within the last 20-years that have taken years to construct, have cost up to £1bn in some cases, suffered from delays and unfinished sections and have fallen quickly into disrepair and disuse as soon as the major tournament it was designed for has finished and moved on to the next country and the next big city.
You can see many examples of these ‘white elephant’ stadiums spread throughout the globe and others with on-going problems. From the large stadiums in Korea, Japan, South Africa and Brazil that were built for the football World Cups in each country since the turn of the millennium, to the Olympic Stadium in Athens which has become the temporary home to football clubs but no longer has a long-term plan in place. Aside from that there have been problems with the legacy of the London Olympics, with the Olympic Stadium repurposed for West Ham to play in as their home football ground, but this has caused problems as it was designed not for football, but for multi-purpose athletics and events, leading to it being an unpopular destination for football fans.
It doesn’t have to be this way of course. With careful planning, a combination of reasonable funding from outside investors, local councils and developers, as well as a long-term plan that offers sustainability to the local area surrounding the stadium and a venue that can be used for a range of events, sports and music, a stadium can still play a vital role at the centre of an urban environment.