Architects discuss challenges for controversial World Cup in Qatar

While a final verdict of whether Qatar should host the 2022 FIFA World Cup is still in the balance, architects have come to grips with tackling the natural challenges posed by the country’s climate.

Also, designers have been enthusiastically incorporating social aspects into their work – so that the tournament can create a lasting social legacy for the country along with the eight new sports arenas.

One of the first stadiums to be built, the Education City Stadium, sited in Doha, is set to include classrooms, offices and conference rooms.

“It will be a highly visible, living example of sustainability in action for everybody who lives, works and studies in Education City and beyond. Our vision for it is to inspire people not just with a great sporting achievement but to live healthier and more sustainable lives,” says project manager, Eid al-Qahtani.

Aecom Global Sports Group, which along with Zaha Hadid Architects has designed the Al Wakrah stadium, recognises the issue of the extreme heat that will be encountered by players and fans alike.

Architecture manager Diogo Taddei says: “If the World Cup is played in the summer it will be a challenge for the event. If the World Cup is played in the winter, the challenge is set for legacy. Regardless of the time when the tournament is held, the summer is a very warm season, and the stadia must be usable throughout the year.

“The issue of user and spectator comfort is very important but it’s not a challenge that’s unique to the Middle East. For example, very cold regions must address visitor comfort in the freezing winter months.”

Ali Bin Nasser Al-Khalifa, CEO of ASTAD Project Management, says although it is a something to be wary of there are ways to prevent it from becoming an issue for Qatar. ASTAD, who has been behind sporting venues such as the Al Sadd Sports Hall Lusail Multipurpose Sports Hall for the International Handball Championship, is managing the Qatar Foundation’s Health and Wellness Facility with a capacity of 40,000 people, which is planned to be one of the designated 2022 stadiums.

“We have developed cooling technologies that meet the challenge and adhere to international regulations and exceed such regulations in terms of the pitch cooling and the spectator environment so we are very confident that the spectators will be able to see the sports in the best possible environment,” he assures.

“The technology we are using has been proven, it has been modeled and we have implemented it on existing stadiums.”

Taddei adds that in addition to climate, stadium design has a number of other challenges that need to be taken into account.

“It must be a priority to understand how the community will make use of these facilities and is something that must be taken very seriously at the beginning of the planning stages, prior to the design.

“As a result, the stadium will be designed and operated in a way that reflects a region’s customs,” he explains.

He adds that the most important factor for design is “understanding that the primary goal is to be a successful sporting venue. It can fill one with architectural delight, but this should not interfere with functionality.

“The seating bowl must be designed so that spectators can have an unrestricted and clear view of the field of play. Spectators want to see the action as the central piece and not the venue’s architectural elements. Further enhancing spectatorexperience by creating wide concourses and spectator facilities for comfortable use and maintenance is also important.”

Al Khalifa describes how these elements of creating a successful sporting venue has been implemented in stadiums starting with modular systems.

“The stadiums for FIFA 2022 are designed in such a way where they can accommodate a large volume of people from 45,000 to 80,000 spectators and once the event is complete, the stadium can be reduced in size to cater for a reduced capacity.

“However, Al Khalifa mentions other challenges that are more common to the region including “the cost of materials, the fluctuation on the price of core materials like steel or bitumen, and also procuring enough of these to secure the supply amid growing demand.”

Taddei comments that sustainability should also be of high priority, with the ultimate challenge being how to reduce the ecological footprint for the venue as a whole. The answer to this, he says, is to take a holistic approach to sustainability.

“The way to do this is by energy-use reduction…by incorporating renewable energy technologies installations, supplying a percentage of tournament energy by on-site renewable sources and through water-use reduction with reduced potable water use through reduction and substitution measures,” he says.

According to Al Khalifa: “The stadiums [for Qatar] are some of the most innovative and beautiful that we have seen…they reflect national aspirations of the Qatari people and we believe they will become worldwide sporting icons.”

In response to whether Qatar was the correct choice for FIFA 2022, Al Khalifa says: “Absolutely. This is the first time that the World Cup has been held in the Middle East region and this is a chance to not only provide the world with an unforgettable spectacle but also to promote our own Middle Eastern culture and value.”

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