The Stadium. The Architecture of Mass Sport

The Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAl) is organizing an ambitious event in conjunction with the European Football Championship from 8 June to 24 September 2000 under the title The Stadium. The Architecture of Mass Sport. An exhibition in the Main Room of the NAI building and various parallel activities will focus attention on the architectural aspects of mass sport for the first time. The Main Room will undergo a complete transformation for the purposes of the exhibition. The entrance is at first floor level which is reached by sloping ramps. While ascending a ramp the visitor is surrounded by 'supporters' reproduced in sound and image. The Main Room houses an approximately 9 metre tall grandstand structure consisting of 12 separate rooms. The grandstand increases the available floor area of the hall, normally 1000 m2, by some 30 per cent. This section of the exhibition mimics aspects of a stadium. The vertically arranged exhibition pavilions are mock-ups of stadium zones such as stands, the players tunnel, the business unit and the changing room. Half of the Main Room is occupied by a field of artificial turf. Visitors can kick a ball around on this pitch. It is surrounded by a selection of 35 scale models resting on plinths clad in artificial turf. The models represent examples from all over the world of historic stadiums, more recent stadium designs, and stadiums that have not yet been built. A 'print cabinet' containing a selection of drawings from the NAI collection will complete the display.
The exhibition aims to introduce a broad public to the secrets of stadium architecture. It treats the stadium as an edifice which is affected by social, technical and spatial developments and in which the influence of these developments are legible. The exhibition therefore depicts not only the stadium itself but the cultural background and social trends that help shape it.

There are several good reasons for paying extra attention to the stadium at this juncture. Stadium design has been moving rapidly in recent times making it a subject of concern to people other than sports enthusiasts. Several recent developments underlie this wider interest. A succession of catastrophic accidents has highlighted the importance of public safety in stadium design. Stadiums are subject to a continually increasing involvement of the media, commerce and entertainment. Stadiums have become multi-functional centres with sports being just one of many activities taking place there. The civic prestige of the stadium, which in many cases serves an emblem for the city around it, has given a new boost to stadium design. Finally, the structural and technical developments associated with all these trends attract interest in their own right.

The curators of the exhibition have tried to achieve an alternation of 'information' and 'entourage'. Some parts of the Main Room resemble a conventional exhibition with information presented on wall panels. Others are more like art installations which make the visitor to feel as though present in an actual stadium. This effect is evoked not only by the visual design of the exhibition spaces but by the atmosphere and the activities taking place there. Examples of exhibition features include a variety of playable computer games and videotape presentations, among them animated explorations of as yet unbuilt stadiums, a documentary on the use of the stadium as a prison, football matches and much else. The Main Room contains stands and mini- shops where the visitor can obtain canned drinks from a vending machine. The commercialization of sport is not just an aspect of the exhibition itself but it emerges in the conversion of the foyer into a 'football cafe" and in the renting out of the Main Room during football matches. The municipal press corps will gather in the NAI during Euro 2000 and Radio Rijnmond will broadcast live from the NAI on weekdays from 4 to 5 p.m. The first sign of the NAI's new role as a lively Euro 2000 centre for Rotterdam is already evident on the front of the institute where there is a 10 x 30 metres billboard 'transforming' the NAI building into a stadium. The identity of the architects occupying the front row seats will be revealed on 7 June...

The exhibition will be accompanied by the simultaneous publication of a book of the same title by NAI Publishers. The book has been compiled by Matthijs Bouw and Michelle Provoost (224 pages, English edition NLG 82,50, also available in a Dutch version).