The architecture of the World Cup 2018 stadia (Part 1)

The vast and fascinating country of Russia is well-known for its architecture, with iconic buildings like the Kremlin, Saint Basil’s Cathedral and Saint Petersburg’s Winter Palace immediately springing to mind. Over the next few weeks, all eyes with be on the nation as it hosts the 2018 World Cup tournament.

While most observers will be casting a close eye on what’s happening inside the stadia, the architectural buff will no doubt have some interest in the venues themselves. Ranging in capacity from 35,000 to over 80,000 and almost all located in what’s known as ‘European Russia’, the stadia are sleekly designed and equipped to showcase modern Russia.

Of the 12 venues being used, all but two were built this decade, and even the two older ones have undergone major renovations in preparation for the world’s biggest single-sport event. In this feature, we take a look at five of the grounds set to host games between June 14th and July 15th.

Kaliningrad Stadium (Kaliningrad)

Kaliningrad is isolated from the rest of the stadia in the tournament as it is located in the Kaliningrad Oblast enclave that borders Poland and Lithuania. When the Soviet Union split up in 1991, Lithuania, along with Latvia and Estonia, became independent states. Kaliningrad Oblast did not follow suit, however, and remains part of modern day Russia.

Its stadium is one of a number to have been newly constructed, and in fact only opened its doors last month with a video to announce its completion.

Kaliningrad Stadium (several of the stadia are simply named after the city in which they are located) is said to be based on Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena, and mimics many of its features, such as the retractable roof with inbuilt roller blinds. However, at 35,212, it only has half the capacity of the German giants’ home and is the smallest venue being used in this year’s World Cup. Once the World Cup has finished, the capacity will be further slashed to 25,000, with part of the roof also set to be removed.

Like several of the new Russian stadia, this one is built on impressive surroundings, found on an island in the Pregolya River. The ground will host four games during the tournament – look out for it when England face Belgium on June 28 in a game many expect will decide who tops Group G.

Kazan Arena (Kazan)

Perhaps the most novel feature of the Kazan Arena is that it features Europe’s largest outside screen, measuring 3,622m². Though only opened in 2013, it’s actually one of the older stadia being used in the tournament.

With a capacity just over 45,000 and a modern look both inside and out, the ground was tailor-built for the area, culture and people of Kazan, according to the architects behind it. Indeed, the city, which refers to itself as ‘The Third Capital’, is certainly one of striking architecture, with eye-catching sites like the Pyramid concert hall and disc-shaped Kazan circus standing out.

The Arena, which has hosted Europa League games involving Rubin Kazan, will be the venue for a quarter final clash at the World Cup, as well as five other games.

Luzhniki Stadium (Moscow)

The Russian capital is home to two of the stadia being used in the competition, and the Luzhniki is the bigger of the two, and indeed the largest venue being used. With a capacity of 81,000, it’s no surprise that it will host the World Cup Final on July 15.

Opened in 1956, the stadium is archaic compared to most on this list, but has recently completed its third renovation period since 1996. In fact, the renovations were so dramatic, one could argue this is a brand new stadium, with the self-supported cover and façade wall about all that remains from the original construction. When it was first built, the architects raved of its location, near plenty of green space and the riverside, yet with convenient links to the city centre.

It’s without doubt a stadium with bags of history, having hosted events during the Moscow 1980 summer and been the scene of a major sporting disaster two years later. Along with the Final, it will welcome Russia and Saudi Arabia next Thursday for the opening match.

Otkritie Arena (Moscow)

The second Moscow arena has just over half the capacity of the Luzhniki, and nowhere near the same history, having been opened in 2014. Its construction was plagued with problems, which included an architecture firm jettisoning the original plans after deeming them not original enough, and the period between breaking ground and officially opening the stadium spanned more than seven years.

The stadium is attractively clad in red and white diamonds on the exterior, representing the colours of hosts Spartak Moscow. Further Spartak paraphernalia can be found in the statues dotted around the ground, such as those of the four Starostin brothers who played for the club in the 1930s and were once imprisoned following false accusations of conspiracy against Joseph Stalin.

The ground holds 45,000, but it will no doubt sound like many more when Iceland’s noisy fans arrive for their World Cup debut against Argentina – one of five games to be played at the Otkritie.

Nizhny Novgorod Stadium (Nizhny Novgorod)

Another bang up-to-date stadium, with construction only finished this year, the 45,000-capacity Nizhny Novgorod Stadium gleams in the area’s traditional tones of white and blue. Not unlike the famous Maracanã in Brazil, it appears almost circular when viewed from above.

The stadium is three storeys high, and has a link close to home in that the rubble and sand installation beneath the pitch was tested in Scotland. Continuing the British theme, England will make an appearance in the ground on June 24, looking to avoid an upset against rank outsiders Panama. The munch fancied Argentinians also pay a visit to take on Croatia, and Nizhny Novgorod will host a quarter final clash as well.

Stay tuned for the second part of this feature later in the month, when we look into the other seven venues being used during the World Cup.

Posted by Mark
June 7, 2018

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