The following is a proposal written for a traveling fellowship from last year. The grant was not awarded:
“As participation in organized religion continues to decline and economic troubles plague Western Europe, the religious and economic phenomenon that is football (soccer) continues to thrive. The national teams of Spain, France, Italy have had tremendous recent successes and all three countries are home to world-renowned professional club football teams. Cathedrals built to these various sects can be found in major and minor cities across Western Europe, physically omnipresent, as concrete symbols of pride, glory, shame and disappointment. Stadia have been a part of western cities since the ancient Olympic Games in Athens, and have provided millenia of entertainment for the masses and control for their rulers. Stadia serve as the largest gathering spaces for many cities, and cause immense strain on transportation systems when they hold events. The football stadia of France, Spain and Italy offer a unique opportunity to understand how some of the largest urban structures impact their urban surroundings, and how these structures transform from potential to active event space.
“This proposal seeks to document the siting and presence of football stadia within their neighborhood settings, through the use of orthographic and parallel projection drawings, photographs and diagrams. Each stadium will be looked at using three scales: the scale of the city, with a focus on transportation networks; the scale of the neighborhood,with a focus on the figure/ground relationship between the stadium and its adjacent buildings; and the scale of the building, with a focus on the procession and approach of spectators from street to seat.
“A possible itinerary would include visits to six cities in four countries in Western Europe: Milan’s San Siro stadium, Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, Braga’s (Portugal) Estadio Municipal, Paris’ Parc des Princes, Barcelona’s Camp Nou, and Madrid’s Bernabeu. These stadia have been chosen for specific reasons. The San Siro has a distinct architectural expression and procession. Rome offers the legacy of the 1960s Olympic Games. Estadio Municipal do Braga is a recent (2004) project of Pritzker Prize winner Eduardo Souto de Moura and is carved into rock cliff. Paris’ Parc des Prince is located on top of the Boulevard Peripherique. The Camp Nou is Europe’s largest club stadium and Madrid is a close second, currently commissioning expansion proposals from Norman Foster and Herzog & de Meuron. Current league scheduling would allow for the attendance of matches of each stadium during the last three weeks of May after the conclusion of the spring semester.”
I got the chance to visit the Camp Nou in Barcelona, once while passing through and once more for a La Liga game back in January ’09. I also got the chance to visit the architectural offices of a firm in Barcelona who were finalists for a proposed renovation and expansion to Camp Nou. Norman Foster won that competition, which became a victim of the Great Recession. FC Barcelona recently voted for renewed expansion plans for the stadium.