The Qatar Showcase: Unveiling the look of the future

Sean Macintosh

Sean Macintosh

FIFA World Cup is 6 years away but 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar Showcase, designed by Arup Associates, indicates the innovative technologies that will dictate the construction at Doha

Arup Associates’ design for 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar Showcase is the world’s most sustainable stadium, a radical piece of environmental architecture that was a major driver in Qatar’s sustainability plan and World Cup bid.

Arup Associates’ design for 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar Showcase is a distinctive building. The 500-seater ‘model stadium’ is carbon zero and a development platform to refine technologies for application across Qatar and potentially across all arid regions.

The Showcase was commissioned in order to demonstrate to FIFA and the world-wide audience that the harsh climate over the summer months is no longer a barrier to hosting global events. It is an investigation into innovative, cutting-edge solutions for creating a controlled microclimate over and around the football field, and other public spaces. The Showcase serves as a proof-of-concept for innovative cooling and climate control technologies since it is designed with the most sophisticated techniques for capturing and storing the power of the sun.

The Showcase is based on 3 key aspects: an exciting architecture and structure which develops traditional passive design ideas to a new energy-saving and comfortable architecture; photovoltaics that convert the energy of the sun into electricity; capturing and converting the sun’s heat into cooling for summertime air conditioning using under-seat supply.

Completed in 2010, the design of this unique stadium is at the forefront of future stadia design. The project, built over an area of 3,411 sq. metres, was hailed as a trailblazer (Structural Awards 2011, shortlisted, Sport or Leisure Category & World Architecture Awards 2011, shortlisted, Sports Category).

The Brief
The original brief from the Qatar 2022 client team was for a simple pavilion that demonstrated some cooling performance technologies. However, after working with the client in workshops, Arup Associates developed with them the idea of a radical environmental approach and the idea of zero carbon technologies being a differentiator for their Qatar cup bid – a key part of the eventual Qatar bid brought to reality the themes of a responsible world cup in a very hot climate and the issues of being able to dissemble it and ship the technologies to other cultures.

Working to an absolute deadline of the FIFA officials visit on September 14, 2010 to have a completed stadium, fully operational under zero carbon conditions, the showcase was designed in just 8 weeks, and had a construction timeline of 4.5 months after the contract had been selected. Appointment in December 2009, work started at the site in May 2010 and was completed merely 4 months later in September 2010.

Whilst the imperative to impress FIFA was strong, budget constraints were still in place and costs were very carefully controlled throughout design and construction. During the FIFA visit, with an outside temperature having reached 44 degrees only 2 hours earlier, the temperature on the pitch was recorded as 23 degrees.

The Design
The stadium has been designed as a hybrid of fast and lightweight construction technologies with local, vernacular means of construction.

The showcase form is directly informed by aligning the functional requirements of FIFA for player and spectator comfort and excellence of experience together with a radical environmental architectural language. Externally, this form is developed in response to sun, wind and macro climatic conditions; the showcase has a legible façade and logical form. The resulting language aims to articulate the integrated structural, technological and environmental concepts; whilst providing an enhanced setting for people to interact with the sporting spectacle and the building environment.

The Revolving Roof Canopy
The compelling rhythmic geometry of The Showcase’s canopy roof plays an important part in the sustainability strategy of the stadium. The canopy roof rotates, in 14.5 minutes, to provide cooling shade within the building and insulated against the hot sun in summer. It is the first roof of its type and is already considered a pioneering move towards a more environmentally responsible approach to stadia architecture. The multi-skinned roof structure is cladded with permeable screens of triangulated PVC fabric with a low emissivity coating supported on a secondary steel frame, with an inner cladding of triangulated ‘pillows’ of translucent ETFE (Ethylene Tetra Fluro Ethylene) membrane, providing both thermal performance and light transmittance, keeping radiant and conductive heat out and allowing natural light into the arena.

Chilling the Stadium
Just outside the Showcase is a photovoltaic installation – a sun farm, connected to the structure’s electrical system and the national grid. The venues’ solar panels will operate year-round, continuously exporting electrical energy to the national grid. On a match day, the higher electrical demand will bring electricity back into the facility from the national grid.

The Qatar 2022 Showcase offers the most sophisticated techniques for capturing and storing the power of the sun. And, as all the energy for the showcase is generated from the sun, over the year, the building has no carbon emissions.

The ideas used in this Showcase are intended to show how energy can be considered as an integrated aspect of architecture, engineering and infrastructure with renewable energy contributing for the first time at scale in Qatar. Following Qatar’s success in the bid, a range of stadia, fan zones and other facilities will be required for The World Cup Games which will take benefit from these design ideas and technologies.

The Showcase has now been handed to the Qatar Science and Technology Park who champion research and technology business in Doha. It will be used for developing the technologies pioneered in this project for many sports and use in similar hot arid regions.

The project is recognised as being at the forefront of future stadia design and sets a template for creating a positive sporting environment for spectators, players and the local community.

About the Architect
Sean Macintosh is a key architect within Arup Associates at London, having joined the company in 1997. A B.Arch, Dip.Arch from Glasgow School of Art, Riba 1 & 2, he was the project architect for the Kasc mosque, Coventry University Engineering and Computing building and a major data centre in the Middle East. He is also project architect for the Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh, which won 3 international awards in 2002.
Sean’s experience in the education sector encompasses school and university work. He is currently working on a new computing and engineering faculty building for the University of Coventry that incorporates a highly innovative façade system and biodiverse roof.

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