02/12/2008 to 26/02/2009 Stadia and Arenas – von Gerkan, Marg and Partners Architects 


Duration of exhibition
04.12.2008 – 29.02.2009
gmp Architecture workshop

When Meinhard von Gerkan and Volkwin Marg first became involved in sports buildings projects, fitness and wellness studios were unknown concepts. People talked about "keeping trim" and "physical training". Their first sports project actually to be constructed was the result of an ideas competition for a swimming pool design initiated by the Social Democrats in Germany in 1965 – the Sports Forum at the University of Kiel, which was followed shortly after by the award of first place in the international competition for the Diekirch Sports Center in Luxemburg.

The 20th Olympic Games in Munich in 1972 were post-war Germany’s opportunity to put itself across as a modern, democratic and open-minded country. For gmp, that meant making do as runners-up for the design of the Olympic Stadium. The top position was carried off by what was still unique of its kind, Frei Otto’s tent structure with Behnisch & Partners.

The football World Cup in Germany in 2006 brought the next important stage in gmp’s career in sports architecture – the Berlin Olympic Stadium and its historic legacy. The design and its implementation allowed justice to be done to both the historic structure of the thirties and the requirements of a modern roofed stadium meeting FIFA standards.

The stadia in Frankfurt and Cologne added two works to the oeuvre that are unique for their structure and aesthetics. The process of construction was itself a masterpiece of logistics, because sports events continued meantime without interruption. "If we consider the complex shapes of our designs," comments gmp partner Hubert Nienhoff, “it is clear that we are always concerned with the external emblematicalness, but that is always harmonized with the design logic."

It was this architectural approach that led to the world knocking at gmp’s door, so that the Stadia and Arenas exhibition features not only the first pictures of the almost completed World Cup stadia for 2010 in Cape Town and Durban. Also represented are stadia still in planning for the European Championships in Poland, in Tripoli, Bucharest and New Delhi, plus the Universiade in Shenzhen, China.

The projects are presented in the exhibition with impressive photos, graphic plans and cross-sections plus 1:20 scale architectural models, with brief accompanying explanatory texts.

As the most recent Olympic Games in Beijing showed, stadia are more than mere arenas of competition. For the host countries, they are important prestige objects that create reputations in the international worlds of states and credit. For the cities that put on the world championships or European championships, the stadia are important economic stimuli that help to drive infrastructure projects forward. Not least, they are an important factor in marketing cities.

For the public, the architectural backdrops and mass crowds express not only a collective identification with the club or the nation. "People not only act like swarms of bees in the psychological slipstream of mass sports events. They are at risk of getting carried away by political or religious mass hysteria," comments Hubert Nienhoff. However, it is not architects who decide what goes on in stadia. The architects’ function is to create tectonic space. “I feel like an atheist allowed to build a cathedral, because I actually love empty stadia. Half full is terrible. They need to be empty or full!” says Volkwin Marg.