Qatar's Al Wakrah Stadium has officially been inaugurated and hosted its first soccer game. Designed by the late Zaha Hadid, along with longtime collaborator Patrik Schumacher, its sculpted form is inspired by a type of local boat and is meant to keep spectators and players cool, even in the harsh summer heat in that part of the world.
Zaha Hadid Architects, working with Aecom, was commissioned to design the stadium for Qatar's 2022 FIFA World Cup. Its modular design means it'll host 40,000 spectators during the tournament and 20,000 when in normal use. The project has proved controversial, with some critics likening its design to female genitalia when seen from above. More seriously however, there has been at least one worker death and allegations of terrible conditions.
Controversy aside, it's a striking building, with eye-catching facades that slant outwards in a way meant to bring to mind a dhow's sails. It's topped by a complex operable roof by Schlaich Bergermann Partner made from pleated fabric, which can be completely closed to shelter the interior during the summer heat. The roof itself is also inspired by the dhow.
"The stadium's roof design is an abstraction of the hulls of dhows turned upside-down and huddled together to provide shade and shelter," says Zaha Hadid Architects. "This is expressed in the stadium's envelope geometry, details and selected materiality, including the roof's beam structure that echoes the interior structure of a d'how's hull.
"The image of the dhow is further emphasized through the large overhang of the stadium's eaves that incorporates strips of metal cladding reminiscent of the timber structures used in a dhow."
According to the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar, the official body tasked with delivering the stadiums for the upcoming tournament, Al Wakrah Stadium's interior boasts a high-tech cooling system that will maintain the spectator areas at a temperature of 18° C (64.4° F) and the field of play to 20° C (68° F).
"We use the platform of the stadium to defend it against the infiltration of warm wind," says Dr Saud Abdul-Ghani, Professor at the College of Engineering at Qatar University, who was involved in the project. "This means the stadium is a barrier that is basically containing a cold bubble inside. The technology works by maintaining the cold bubble for as long as necessary in order for people to watch the game, and so the players are comfortable.
"At Al Wakrah Stadium, we are using an air circulation technique, which means we draw back some of the air that has been cooled already, re-cool it and then push it back to the supporters and players."
The Al Wakrah Stadium project also involved significant landscaping, the creation of a market and activity park, as well as a new precinct nearby that will offer community-based activities on non-event days.
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