The key element of successful public architecture is cultural significance. In order to be seen as culturally significant, the building must complement the country’s heritage and offer visual cues – symbolic or otherwise – that show these connections.
This idea is only maximised if the building’s function has cultural importance of its own – such as with a museum, opera house or sports stadium.
Architectural firms LAVA and JDAW showed a strong understanding of this concept and maximised it to its full potential in their tender-winning proposal for the ‘National Stadium + Sports Village’ in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Having both a foreign design team in LAVA and the national firm JDAW work together on the project means a fusion of both international and cultural design elements will be included, ensuring the sports stadium will be uniquely world-class.
While the stadium, set to function as a key base for the FIFA World Cup with a capacity for 60,000, strongly reflects the country’s cultural heritage, its fundamental design and delivery methodology has and will continue to serve as an example of sustainability.
This may not come as a surprise for many due to the fact that sustainable design has been a major catalyst for the choice of stadium tenders for the World Cup worldwide, with the proposal for Qatar’s Stadia chosen largely based on the development team’s promise that the stadium will be able to run carbon-neutrally.
The Ethiopian stadium will be constructed below ground level. Not only will this aid in the cooling of the field area, but the excavated dirt and stone will be used to construct the surrounding seating.
Not only does this use local materials sustainably, but the sunken field actually mimics the region’s volcanic geology.
In this same manner, the exterior façade of the building will be wrapped in such a way that it will mimic the Massob – an Ethiopian grass-woven communal serving basket. The façade will aid in eliminating solar gain while drawing upon highly prevalent cultural roots.
The undulating circular shape of the structure is also a strong nod toward Ethiopia’s greatest and most iconic export – the coffee bean.
“The form of the stadium structure seen from the top view also recalls coffee beans, the main source of income in Ethiopia and the ‘mother womb’, the skeleton of one of the first humans, Lucy, which is about 3.2 million years old,” says Daniel Assefa of JDAW.
Solar-powered umbrellas will be dotted throughout the entire site, offering shade to spectators while generating renewable energy. Responsive light and water features act as unique path-finding tools.
Ethiopia has a strong culture and it is no surprise that national architects would wish to convey that on an international platform such as the FIFA world cup. Work on the Ethiopian National Stadium is set to begin in 2014.