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Analysis: Kicking off in Al Wakrah

Look at the first stadium to be built for Qatar's 2022 World Cup.

ANALYSIS, Projects

It had been anticipated for quite some time, but the unveiling of the first of the stadiums proposed for the FIFA 2022 World Cup stadiums certainly drew a considerable audience of local, regional and international press to an event in Doha at which plans for the stadium were unveiled.

Qatar’s 2022 Supreme Committee appointed a team that includes London-based Zaha Hadid Architects along with Aecom as design consultants for the 40,000-seat Al Wakrah stadium in June, with the latter also providing construction supervision and KEO International Consultants serving as project manager.

The new stadium is the first of eight planned for the tournament. The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee (Q22) has said that it is committed to building all 12 that were in its initial bid, if required, but it is currently still compiling technical studies on the exact number needed.

It is also planning to deliver stadiums capable of hosting tournaments in the summer, despite the ongoing machinations over the tournament’s date.

Q22’s secretary-general Hassan Al-Thawadi said early and enabling works tenders for five stadiums will be issued from the first quarter of 2014, with tenders for the main contracts due to be issued during the final quarter.

The stadiums will be phased in terms of delivery, with Al Wakrah being the first to complete in 2018 and the final one finishing in 2021 – a year ahead of the tournament’s start date.

Al-Thawadi said a phased approach is being taken “to make sure that we avoid some of the negative problems that might apply from a concentrated period of construction in a short period of time”.

Jim Heverin, an associate director at Zaha Hadid Architects, has been tasked with managing both this project and the new Japanese National Stadium that will be the main venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games.

He said that the Al Wakrah stadium follows the design principles set out by Q22.

Although the design has faced some criticism internationally, it has been created in consultation with the local community with a view of reflecting their history.

Al Wakrah, which is around 20km south of Doha, sits on the coast and its history is based around the fishing and pearl diving industries. The aerial view of the roof canopy has been created to represent the dhow’s sail, while a number of roof trusses supporting the structure made from engineered timber (glulam) were chosen to represent the wooden beams used in a typical hull.

Heverin said the symbolic reference of the dhow “was a key starting point in terms of the design, how to link the stadium to its site, its culture and to the people that will be using it for future generations.”

Indeed, legacy has been at the forefront of the design, with the 40,000-seat venue containing 20,000 demountable seats that can be removed after the tournament and shipped onto developing countries – as pledged in bid documents.

This will leave a 20,000-seat ground for use by the Al Wakrah Sports Club football side once the tournament concludes.

It also sits as the centrepiece of a new precinct being created that will have scores of long-term community facilities including: a multi-purpose indoor sports arena with two halls; a pair of FIFA-compliant training pitches; four tennis courts; a four-star, 150-room business hotel; 5,000-10,000m2 of retail; a mosque; a vocational hospitality training centre; and an international school for up to 1,000 pupils.

“For us, I think that’s a clear starting point in terms of sustainable design principles,” says Heverin. “You start with the idea of a legacy, and then you transform it for the tournament.”

The stadium and surrounding environs have been designed to make the most of shading and passive cooling to minimise the requirements for air-conditioning.

Fans will arrive via either the Doha Expressway or the new Metro.

Although it stops 4km short of the stadium, shuttle buses will be used to transport spectators to the ground.

“They will arrive at the site and step out into a cooled public realm. That will connect into a cooled concourse and then they’ll come into the seating bowl, which will also be cooled,” Heverin says.

A mix of shading, passive and mechanical techniques will be used to provide the cooling. The stadium orientation should mean the entire seating bowl is in shade by the time early evening games kick off, and most of the stadium is clad in an opaque material to prevent solar gain. Glazed areas allowing natural light into the concourse sit below large overhangs and will be covered by screens.

Temperatures within the seating bowl will vary between 24-28 degrees Celsius, while on the natural grass pitches players will experience an optimal 26 degrees Celsius.

Since this will require an element of mechanical cooling, efforts are being made to mitigate this. At least 15% of the energy needed will be produced by onsite renewables, while water use should be reduced by 60% when compared with a typical stadium design.

Over 15% of the material used in the structures will be from reused or recycled materials, and the use of engineered timber for the roof trusses has a lower embedded carbon footprint than alternative steel or concrete reinforcements, Heverin adds.

“Another key factor that we’ve looked at in terms of the design is to make sure that there’s as much off-site fabrication as possible.

“This will help in terms of saving time on onsite installation, it achieves a higher build quality and more importantly it reduces the risks to workers on site. There’s a real health and safety benefit with the amount of offsite fabrication you can do.”

Assessing the design, Joshua A Boren, president of The JA Business Group, said that he was “a bit disappointed” to see that the design had lost so much of the original ‘dhow’ inspirations in the concept designs used for the 2022 bid.

“Instead, the new design seems more aligned with a style easily identifiable as ‘Zaha’. Regardless of personal opinion, this design in particular has already garnered quite a bit of media and press worldwide during a time when highlighting progress is important.”

Chris J. Dean, Qatar country manager for Hill International, said: “As can be seen from current and planned construction projects, Qatar has seized the opportunity to take stock of the old and push the envelope in what can be achieved for the future.”

He described the current timetable for stadium delivery as ‘lean’, pointing out that the advanced designs are likely to produce a “labyrinth of contractual, technical and commercial considerations”.

He said it was “admirable” how Qatar had responded to the challenge in creating the necessary skills for a World Cup without having had a tangible rehearsal for the role.

“However, Qatar has taken all necessary measures to fill those spaces and will certainly see the reward post-2022, in the form of an advanced, educated nation.”

Boren adds: “There is an ongoing joke in the industry that Qatar is further ahead in their preparations than Brazil this coming summer! Of course, that is hyperbole but the fact exists that Qatar not only has time to finish the stadium construction program but also other key infrastructure works (roads, light-rail, hospitality, etc.). I do not foresee an issue in having these developments ready for both Confederations Cup in 2021 as well as the World Cup in 2022.”

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