NBBJ has shared with us their latest design in sports architecture, a multifunctional industrial sports complex for the residents of Suzhou, 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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.