Suzhou Industrial Park Sports Center / NBBJ

  • 13 Feb 2013
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  • Projects
Stadium View from River © NBBJ

NBBJ has shared with us their latest design in , a multifunctional industrial sports complex for the residents of , China. Designed as a community asset, the cultural sports hub will include a commercial center, aquatics facility, gymnasium, arena, professional sports stadium and more. All facilities will be integrated within a lush “Sports Garden” that features an abundance of pedestrian walkways, gardens and sport fields.

The architects’ description after the break…

Stadium (middle left), Arena (lower left), Aquatic center and hotel (lower right), fitness facility (upper right) © NBBJ

The Suzhou Industrial Park Sports Center Project is, at its core, about the wellness, success, and inspiration of Suzhou. It will become a great asset for its community, providing a new Sports Garden where the people of Suzhou and surrounding areas can engage in sports both as participants in daily activities or spectators at major events. It will bring balance to the nearby Suzhou Industrial Park’s economic success, and enable it to become one of the great civic communities in the world.

There have been many Sports Centers in China, which have aspired to this goal of transforming their communities. Most have not succeeded because they have been designed around a specific sporting event (with no long term facility plan), or they have failed to capture the character and culture of their cities. They are only able to inspire people at a distance and for a short time during events. The Suzhou Industrial Park Sports Center will achieve true transformation by engaging the community and citizens of Suzhou – people will not only see but will also use the facilities as participants.

Site Plan © SWA/NBBJ

More importantly, the people of Suzhou will recognize and understand the Sports Center as belonging to Suzhou.  The Sports Garden spaces, the architecture of the facilities, and the events in the Promenade will all draw upon the history and culture of Suzhou, and give this development a powerful identity unique among all sports centers.  This cultural relevance, along with a community orientation in the operation and phasing, will ensure success for generations to come.

Phasing Strategy 

The phasing of the Sports Center is thoughtful and enlightened – the initial phases of development consist of the commercial centers and community- based sports facilities, with the main athletics stadium being built last.  It is not built for an event, but for legacy use by the community.

View of Arena © NBBJ

The masterplan reflects this enlightened approach in three ways:  Compact facility planning around a central Promenade, location of the most heavily used facilities closest to the main points of access, and utilization of direct access to mass transit.

Bowl of stadium © NBBJ

The most heavily used, community focused Phase I and II buildings (the commercial center / aquatics facility, the gymnasium, and the arena) are located closest to Susheng Boulevard and the transit stations to the north.  As Susheng is the main corridor into Central Cultural District, these buildings will have the highest visibility to the Industrial Park, will be the most urban in their architectural character, and will also have best access from the surrounding neighborhoods and bus / rail transit lines.  Their daily usage by the surrounding communities will build a strong user base for the Sports Park.

The Phase III Main Stadium is carefully located just to the south of these initial structures. As the visitor enters the lush new Suzhou Sports Garden they are drawn along the promenade, with its grand canal, its soft grass lands, its pockets of seating and contemplation, its rich grove of native trees, towards a glowing beacon growing like a flower from the midst of the new garden. This stadium resembles a luminescent translucent lantern – red during the day and ever changing at night – attracting the people from the city and marking the Suzhou Sports Garden from the river.

View of stadium from pedestrian path © NBBJ

This stadium, learning from the traditional Chinese lantern is incredibly innovative not only in its lighting qualities but in its physical lightness – using much less material and structure than most any stadium in the world. The simple beauty of the stadium can act as a lovely backdrop to the daily life of sports, fitness and contemplation found in all corners of this new sports Garden for Suzhou.

Its location reflects its role – this building will be an iconic venue capable of hosting international sporting events, but will probably not be used on a daily basis.  It may also be constructed several years after the completion of Phases I and II.  Rather than have a large unbuilt space along Susheng Boulevard, or a large facility blocking people’s daily access to the gymnasium or courts, the stadium is located in an appropriate place further southward, as a backdrop to the community functions.

The stadium’s more southerly location allows it to be viewed and contemplated from a variety of vantage points around the site, enhancing the iconic impact of the facility within the city.  It will also provide a proper Promenade procession and entry plaza to the stadium from the north.

Aerial of site © NBBJ
Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "Suzhou Industrial Park Sports Center / NBBJ" 13 Feb 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
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  • Nick T

    I like the general design/form/aesthetic of the stadium. But that stadium bowl design is awful. They fans are miles away from the pitch. Its always harder to provide good fan experience with a track around it, but moving people further away is even worse.

    At the halfway line (best views of a game) the front row looks to be 50m from the pitch (fifa football pitch itself is 75m).

    When you take into account the obligatory advertising boards on pitch perimeter, i’m doubting anybody in the first 4 rows is even going to see the game over them.

    I seriously hope they bring in the bowl, and loose the oval shape that is pushing so many people miles from the pitch. This is what happens when architects who aren’t sports fans design a stadium.

    Rant over

  • Jennifer

    When will this be opening? We dearly need a true sports center and tennis club in Suzhou!