England’s participation in the 2015 Rugby World Cup was briefer and more painful than my school team’s shorts in the late 1980s. Fortunately however, national pride was salvaged by the excellent organisation of the tournament, and in particular, our innovative and pioneering stadia. Phew.
Our client, Populous, were responsible for three of the World Cup venues. Global leaders in the design of sports venues, their strapline, ‘drawing people together,’ would also, coincidentally, work quite neatly for us. But it also emphasises the importance of the very human experiences that their buildings are all about. Which is why they were keen to try and show off their RWC15 stadia in a warmer, more approachable visual style than the sleek, clinical imagery we usually associate with architects.
The three venues, the former Olympic stadium in East London, the Etihad Stadium in Manchester and Stadium MK in Milton Keynes – are better known for sports and events other than rugby, and Populous wanted to tell stories for each stadium that reflected their broader usage.
Each of them, in different ways, have been designed and planned so ingeniously, that they can be said to have multiple identities. Stadium MK for example, is as much, if not more a hotel than it is a football ground. The Olympic stadium’s retractable seating makes it possible to shift between an athletics event to the more intimate atmosphere of Premier League football. And with zero disruption, Manchester City’s Etihad continued to host football even as a huge new stand was being built to accommodate more fans. Showing these multiple states and transformations while keeping the illustrations readable was the biggest challenge here, but with the help of the team at Populous, we feel we managed to get the right balance between architectural clarity and the buzz of a matchday. I can almost smell the pies and the Deep Heat.