Head cap-inspired sports stadium designed to keep athletes from running hot
Resembling a huge head covering discarded in the Qatar desert, the recently completed Al Thumama Stadium has been inaugurated ready for the FIFA 2022 World Cup. The stadium's eye-catching design is inspired by the gahfiya, a traditional woven headcap worn throughout the Middle East, and is designed to help keep spectators and athletes at a comfortable temperature.
The Al Thumama Stadium was designed by Qatar-based architect Ibrahim M Jaidah and is located near the country's capital, Doha. It has a spectator capacity of 40,000 and will host eight soccer matches, up to and including the quarter-finals of the competition.
In addition to the sporting facilities, it features a mosque, a boutique hotel, and retail areas. Once the tournament comes to a close, half the seats will be removed and it will be used for other sporting events.
According to the architect, in a similar way to how the gahfiya protects people's heads from the Sun, the stadium will keep players and spectators cool, with help from a complex cooling system featuring water sprays, air-conditioning and fans.
"The players need cooler air than the spectators, as they are running around," says Dr. Saud Abdulaziz Abdul Ghani, who has been given the task of keeping everyone at a comfortable temperature. "Our challenge at each venue was to provide the correct technology and temperature for different areas of the stadium. At Al Thumama, the cool air is closer to the spectators. Here, we cool the air under the seats and recycle and purify it inside the venue. Al Thumama also benefits from having a completely white exterior, thanks to its design replicating the gahfiya head cap, which reflects the Sun and helps to keep the stadium cool."
Though there's nothing particularly "sustainable" about building huge stadiums in the desert, Al Thumama does have significant green design that reduces its carbon footprint. Grey water is reused to irrigate the vegetation and trees that cover most of the immediate area and the stadium is partly powered by a huge solar panel array installed nearby. A separate solar array powers the building's air-conditioning systems.
Preparation for the FIFA 2022 World Cup has been a massive undertaking and has resulted in outstanding projects like the Diamond in the Desert and Zaha Hadid's Al Wakrah Stadium. However, the project has not been without controversy too and there have been widespread reports of worker deaths and poor conditions.