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July 1, 2014
Creative reuse projects and green proposals give stadiums a longer life.
Estadio Nacional de Brasilia, a net-zero energy soccer stadium in Brazil
Estadio Nacional de Brasilia Mané Garrincha (Brasilia, Brazil: 2013)

Named after a national soccer icon and located in the center of Niemeyer’s monumental planned city, Estadio Nacional de Brasilia Mané Garrincha could not have been a higher profile project. Castro Mello Arquitetos rose to the challenge with the world’s first net-zero energy stadium, an impressive feat of public design and engineering considering the massive energy spikes during big events. A combination of rainwater collection, solar arrays, shading, and a photocatalytic membrane that breaks down pollution makes this a key legacy of the recent surge in Brazilian stadium construction. By itself, the soccer field generates more solar energy than 11 of the competing nations.

Photo by Wikipedia Commons

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Indianapolis stadium transformed into private housing project
Stadium Lofts (Indianapolis, United States: 2013)

If you rebuild it, they will come. Bush Stadium, the former site of the Indianapolis Indians minor league team, will play host to an extended homestand due to the Stadium Lofts rehab project, which transformed the Art Deco ballpark into a variety of private residences. The field, along with other elements of the park such as the scoreboard, provide one-of-a-kind selling points to what has become a centerpiece of the area near the 16 Tech district.

Photo by Core Redevelopment

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Highbury Square, a redevelopment of the former field of the Arsenal Football club
Highbury Square (London, United Kingdom: 2006)

This former premier league field in London, a prime example of hallowed football ground, went fallow because the team was moving to a bigger stadium. Instead of being neglected, the area got a makeover, becoming a series of Art Deco apartments with a massive shared garden.

Photo by grahamc00 via Creative Commons

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Apogee Stadium, the nation's first LEED Platinum college football field
Apogee Stadium (Denton, Texas: 2011)

It’s fitting that a team called the Mean Green (which originated with famous alum Mean Joe Greene) would eventually play on a LEED Platinum certified field, the first in the nation. Designed by HKS, who know a thing or two about football stadiums after building one for the Dallas Cowboys, Apogee Stadium earns its green credentials from a series of windmills, permeable paving surfaces, and regionally obtained building materials.

Photo by University of North Texas

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National Stadium in Taiwan is covered in solar panels
National Stadium (Kaohsiung, Taiwan: 2009)

Japanese architect Toyo Ito’s coiled dragon of a design, with solar panels for scales, was a bold statement for sustainable design when it was inaugurated for the World Games. Nearly 75% of the building’s energy needs are met with solar power, and the woven grid of pipes calls to mind not so much a reptilian coldness but a fabric wrapped around the crowd.

Photo by Yuting Hu via Creative Commons

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The sustainability minded London 2012 Velodrome, nicknamed "the Pringle"
London 2012 Velodrome (London, United Kingdom: 2012)

There’s a lot more serious building happening above this cycling track than its nickname, the Pringle, suggests. Hopkins Architects went into high gear to sculpt a record-setting track, but didn’t ignore green concerns. By utilizing rainwater collection, a canopy that lets in natural daylight, and a cable-supported roof that reduces steel usage, the building is both sturdy and sustainable.

Photo by Gary Bembridge via Creative Commons

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The incredibly minimal Grand Parquet Horse Eventing Area in Fontainbleau, France
Grand Parquet Horse Eventing Area (Fontainbleau, France: 2012)

While this horse racing track doesn’t necessarily present a blueprint for 100,000-capacity football stadiums, the incredible natural landscaping and environmental integration by Joly & Loiret make it a demonstration of less being considerably more. The gently sloping wooden structure isn't so much a building as an extension of the natural landscape.

Photos by M. Denance Photographe

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Estadio Nacional de Brasilia, a net-zero energy soccer stadium in Brazil
Estadio Nacional de Brasilia Mané Garrincha (Brasilia, Brazil: 2013)

Named after a national soccer icon and located in the center of Niemeyer’s monumental planned city, Estadio Nacional de Brasilia Mané Garrincha could not have been a higher profile project. Castro Mello Arquitetos rose to the challenge with the world’s first net-zero energy stadium, an impressive feat of public design and engineering considering the massive energy spikes during big events. A combination of rainwater collection, solar arrays, shading, and a photocatalytic membrane that breaks down pollution makes this a key legacy of the recent surge in Brazilian stadium construction. By itself, the soccer field generates more solar energy than 11 of the competing nations.

Photo by Wikipedia Commons

What happens to stadiums when the games are over? For an increasing number of cities around the globe, the answer has become a sad counterpoint to the excitement that comes with hosting the Olympics or World Cup. From Athens to Beijing, once-proud sites that were the focus of years of training fall out of shape, withering due to budget problems or poor planning. The current World Cup host city, Brazil, raced to finish construction after a $3.6 billion building plan ran up massive cost overruns. Now, it has to be careful if it wants to avoid a common problem: shiny new fields that get relegated to the ranks of also-rans.

Dwell previously showcased some examples of the afterlife of arenas after talking to director Gary Hustwit, whose Olympic City project is chronicling the aged infrastructure of the quadrennial games. But falling into misuse is only one possible outcome of these massive infrastructure projects. Many designers and architects have devised ways to give sports stadiums a second life, adapting old buildings or creating new ones with environmentally-minded innovations. While these sites may have to say goodbye to their days of medal ceremonies or nail-biting games, these adaptable stadium projects give them a much longer career.

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