Google+ London Architecture Blog: Week 16/13 Feature #9 Wembley Stadium

Friday, 19 April 2013

Week 16/13 Feature #9 Wembley Stadium

Inside Wembley Stadium. Photograph courtesy James Sandham via Flickr. 


Wembley Stadium
Architect: Foster and Partners, HOK Sport
Date Completed: 2002-07
Location: London Borough of Brent

The new Wembley stadium was designed by Foster and Partners & HOK Sport (now known as Populous) and was constructed between 2002-07. The stadium is the national football stadium for England and is owned by the Football Association.

The stadium is built on the site of what was previously the Wembley Exhibition Centre, used to display the various natural and industrial resources of countries which were part of the empire. The previous Wembley stadium, known as the 'Empire Stadium' dated from 1923, and was identified by the landmark 'twin towers', which were sadly demolished in 2003 as part of the construction of the new stadium. This hosted the 1948 Olympic Games and the 1966 World Cup final, in which England won their only world cup trophy.


The twin towers in the old Wembley Stadium. Photograph courtesy Peter Funnell via Flickr.


The new stadium has a capacity of 90,000 seats and is constructed from a combination of concrete, steel and glass. The foundations, tiers and primary structure and surrounding landscape are constructed from reinforced concrete. Wembley Way (also known as Olympic Way and previously Empire Way) is the main linear concourse which links the underground station (Wembley Park on the Metropolitan and Jubilee Lines) to the stadium and leads spectators around the perimeter circulation ring. The concourse divides towards the end to the left and right and sinks into the lower level used for vehicular access, above which is a statue of Bobby Moore (the England football captain who won the World Cup in 1966).

The stadium itself is centred around the main playing field (measuring 105x68m) which although used primarily for football, has the potential to be adapted for future athletics use. From here, concrete tiers rise to provide the base for the 90,000 seats and then step back underneath the steel trusses of the retractable roof planes. The roof, when closed, covers the entire spectator area through the sliding of four 'segment' planes into positions covering the east and west stands and one which extends from the south stand. This still leaves the main portion of the pitch exposed and the incorporation of glass panels into the border of the roof plane on the north stand enables natural light to enter.

The structure for the roof is centred on a 130m highsteel cylindrical arc which tapers in at the ends where it is fixed into the ground by a steel and concrete connection. Hung from the arc are suspension cables which provide support for the roof planes. The arc is lit up at night, and creates a landmark and iconic sculpture on the London skyline.



Wembley on the London skyline. Photograph copyright Laurence Mackman.

Detail of the arc and exterior glass skin. Photograph copyright Laurence Mackman.

The layout of the seating and curved bowl effect of the stadium allows great spectator views from all areas within the stadium. On the exterior, the stadium is then wrapped in a steel frame and clad in glass panels allowing views into and out of the spectator area. Finally, a circular truss runs around the top of the structure and enables light to enter between the main stadium and the roof. The seating is a bright red shade giving a distinctive feel and features the letters for Wembley across the lower stands on the east and west side of the stadium. The steel trusses are painted in a crisp white and the roof planes and exterior cladding a neutral grey.


The stadium was constructed at a cost of £798m and was funded jointly by Sport England, Wembley National Stadium Limited, the Football Association, the department for Culture, Media and Sport and the London Development Agency.

The stadium hosts home matches for the English national team, as well as the final for various English football competitions such as the FA Cup, The League Cup, the League play-off Finals and the Charity Shield. The stadium also hosted the final for 2012 London Olympics men's and women's football competitions, and the 2011 & 2013 Champions League final. In addition to football, the stadium also hosts rugby matches and music concerts.

The stadium has won numerous awards including the RIBA award, Best Structural Innovation by the London District Surveyors Association and the LABC National Built in Quality award.

Click here for further details of the project including construction photographs and drawings (links to Foster and Partners website)

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