Can sports stadia be considered great architecture?
Guest post by James Butterworth
This week the Leeds Society of Architects had a tour around the latest development at Headingly Stadium, The Carnegie Pavilion, designed by renowned Architect Will Alsop during his time at Alsop Sparch Architects. As an architect, fan of sport and a proud Yorkshire man I was looking forward to this behind the scenes tour.
The building itself is actually dual purpose, it is owned by Leeds Metropolitan University who use it during the academic year for lectures, classrooms & offices while during the summer months it is used by Yorkshire Cricket Club for match day facilities including team changing, media rooms & hospitality.
But can this £21m building been seen as great architecture? From the street it looks like nothing else in Headingley, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. The cricket ground has been an important part of the area for over 100 years and so should it not be able to stand out? The building is wrapped in large green triangular cladding panels creating an irregular form. Disappointingly it does not relate to the function inside but equally does not create a striking sculptural form. I don’t wholly dislike this as it is nice to see something different, but it leaves me wanting more. There are some panels omitted and used for windows which from the outside look interesting but from the inside are highly impractical, and look strange in the corner of classrooms.
From the pitch side it fails to impress more, but this is understandable to a point due to the practical requirements and regulations required in stadium design. It looks disjointed in its approach, the triangular green cladding wraps around the sides and roof but does not sit comfortably with the raked glazing of the media areas / classroom. There is a large central lecture theatre cum media room that projects outwards giving great views of the pitch, although not the boundary which is a major issue for commentators! It does add some interest to the elevation but adds another language to an already confused building.
The internals of the building are pleasant enough but nothing groundbreaking; white walls, plain carpets and neutral furniture with some areas of exposed structure. The only room worth commenting on is the chairman’s lounge that was decorated outside of the main design contract for a reportedly very large sum. This room is difficult to describe as there is so much going on with clashing lightshades, gold fabric panels next to timber panels on the walls, white sofas, illuminated images of cricketers and back lit bar area. To see it is to believe it!
So can stadia produce great architecture? Well yes it can, the “Birds Nest” Olympic stadium at Beijing and the media centre stand at Lords Cricket ground are fine examples. The Carnegie Pavilion is not a bad building but at over £20m from a big name architect I’d expect a bit better. However anyone going to watch the cricket will enjoy the view and updated facilities, it also means Headingley is able to hold international matches in the future which is good for Leeds.Tags: headingley carnegie