Sports facilities


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Palencia football stadium

Francisco José Mangado Beloqui, arquitecto

FAD Awards finalist 2007  Architecture
Description Technical file

A football pitch has a fundamental and evident function: playing football. But it also has two less obvious yet no less important objectives. The first has to do with the fact of representation. A football pitch has become a piece with certain iconic values for the city. It is to some extent a building that is seen not only in its quantitative but also in its qualitative dimensions and encloses “dreams of citizens”. The second one is the consequence of an obvious question. A surface of the dimensions of a football pitch, which is only occupied sporadically, is it not a waste of space? The answer to this question is obviously in the affirmative.
The basic idea illustrated by this proposal takes to its last consequences the fact of considering the stadium more as a building than as an infrastructure. A building that can be taken advantage of to house other uses but that, above all, can and must seek to recover the citizens’ vocation. The project proposes a perimeter of offices and other everyday public uses on the ground floor, all of them treated as a great urban “show window” with direct and immediate access from the street. Inside, the stadium turns out to be a surprise void where, besides playing football, one will be able to watch public spectacles of different and varying types.
The context in which the construction is located, surrounded by dwellings, made it necessary, in keeping with what we stated above, to commit to this urban condition of a building. The structural aspects, the great scale derived from the structural language seeks to remain concealed by the perimeter, by the facade in perforated aluminium that, besides creating a dialogue rich in visions between the interior and the exterior, recreates the commitment to transform the stadium into yet another building in the city, certainly large but with a will to integrate.
The towers, which are necessary to illuminate the pitch, sum up the most symbolic role by illuminating themselves like large minerals with a sculptural vocation. They are seen from a distance of several kilometres, establishing a dialogue with the distance, the landscape, Palencia cathedral. We therefore committed to a stadium with an urban vocation without abandoning its festive nature.
The stadium, as could not be otherwise, is clear in its conception and operation. The public accesses are direct from the street. The large, very gently sloping ramps on the corners become the principal accesses. The rest is distributed around the entire perimeter in accordance with requirements for rapid evacuation. A system of parallel and superposed circulations on the different levels independently resolves the use of the stadium, the sports functions and the offices.
General criteria. Organisation. A football stadium, given its sporadic function precisely pinpointed in time, is as similar as it gets to the architectural ‘object’ understood as a paradigm of what is dispossessed of any complexity born of its surroundings, its more or less varied programme or even its formal values insofar as they root their reason for being in them. It is a stadium, full stop. It can also be, depending on the perspective from which the solution is tackled, a certain loss of opportunity for the city when we understand it as something more than a sum of facilities. Habitually, football stadiums have no other use than this one and are generally located on the outskirts far from the urban environment, since their dimensions and the infrastructure needs they generate, mainly those connected with car parking, make it difficult for them to establish a dialogue with the city, uncomfortable in the possible relationship with the parameters and guidelines that define its character. On the contrary, they are pieces with a large capacity for adopting an iconic value consistent with the leisure and consumer society they serve.
The present project has the objective of making compatible the object value of the piece, the iconic one, with its capacity to adopt an urban role. To a great extent it has been the conceptual clarity that with regard to the programme was drawn up in the competition conditions that helped us to achieve this objective. The decision to include in it a large part of uses connected with offices has permitted designing a more in-depth operation than that derived from a purely dimensional or formal appreciation, thus shifting this way of thinking to the ideological option that makes us face the need to resolve a building in the middle of an urban reality –consolidated by a dwelling-filled environment—rather than a peripheral and isolated object.
The stadium building is configured on a plinth devised fundamentally for office use. A plinth with strong urban connotations that also includes in it the accesses to the actual stadium as well as the changing room areas, sports assistance and press areas. It has turned out to be a facility, a service, that is permanently open to and used by the city, in daily contact with the inhabitants it serves, and to which they will come every day to resolve needs. A plinth that gives the stadium a content that goes beyond that of the massive attendance of each weekend. On top of it we built the grandstands that, together with the great void of the playing pitch, configures the use of the football stadium itself. The resulting section allows the grandstands to be separate from the pitch by a height that prevents easy access to it.
The representative value of the piece is given to its material configuration, fundamentally in its external manifestation which makes of the use of artificial light a key “material”, as well as to the formal manipulation in certainly eye-catching terms of the tall posts that, situated on the four corners of the pitch, not only provide light for the field but adopt a truly “iconic” role within the complex.
Accesses and communications. The accesses have been configured with the idea of making the public aspects independent from those of the people who work and play here.
The massive, specific accesses are basically configured via two large ramps situated at the ends, ramps that permit access to the disabled, as well as other various very wide accesses that, distributed over the entire perimeter, perforate the use of offices and the rest of those situated on the ground floor and lead directly and independently to the whole suite of grandstands. It is on this level of the grandstand, precisely in the forging that covers the plinth where the horizontal communications for the public are situated to allow people to move between the different grandstand zones as well as access the facilities and bars. It can therefore be stated that the grandstand is directly linked to the external public space and to some extent becomes its continuity. The nature and layout of the accesses make it possible, as could not be otherwise, to quickly access and evacuate the complex.
Also situated on the ground floor are the rest of the accesses. With regard to the use of the football pitch, it holds those for the teams and referees and the more private ones for management and press, which lead to the tribune and press room, both of them linked. With regard to the use of offices, access to each group or unit is immediate from the public road, as they are configured as show windows giving on to the outside. An internal perimeter route system along the entire floor gives access from the changing rooms and other non-public facilities to the playing field, as well as providing internal communications without having to go outside the different offices and municipal facilities.
Urban development. The urban development was planned so as to participate in the same festive criteria of the building. The development of a football pitch is in general approached more from the perspective of the car parking that services the stadium than from that of the pedestrian that walks to it. The former case is an approach to the piece –an object situated on the outskirts, with the latter being more compatible with the criterion that seeks to give the football stadium an urban, built vocation. The location of the Nueva Balastera football stadium, as indicated above, allows us to think that we were not only designing an object, but that the design of the piece could not be done without taking into account a clear will to create an urban presence and facility. That is why the development has to be consistent with this guiding principle behind the project as a whole.
It can be stated that there are two relatively differentiated parts in the development. The first has a character of arrival, of urban boulevard that leads to the stadium. It runs parallel to the riverbed that had to be channelled and domesticated. In this stretch, the green and landscaped surfaces around which people can sit alternate with paved surfaces that help to intensify the value of an urban boulevard of permanent use.
The other part of the development, the one defined by the perimeter immediately next to the football pitch, is logically conditioned by the specific and intensive access to sports events. It is therefore left free for the most part, seeking generous dimensions that facilitate access and communication with the grandstands. Here are located the car parking surfaces for both cars and coaches.
In this development, as with the building, a major mention must be made of the painstakingly studied artificial lighting that has been installed.
Materialization. It is in the way the project takes place where the most part of the reflections one could make regarding the representative value of the project are concentrated. It is true that this is not a football stadium of large dimensions like others, but the actual nature of the programme, the size of the works, together with the interest generated by the project in Palencia society, make of this work an opportunity for developing an architecture that can in no way cease to exercise its significance and representative value.
A prismatic volume is configured that is committed to a play of transparencies, particularly rich under the light. The effect on match days is that of a great volume-lighthouse irradiating its presence throughout the surroundings. To this end, the entire perimeter of the stadium is enclosed in aluminium sheeting perforated according to a series of triangular incisions that create the mentioned transparency while giving a glimpse of the grandstand section built from concrete. The sheet metal features a triangulated geometry in its layout that gives the complex the idea of transparency as well as that of the density of the enclosure, which is clearly expressed in the shadow produced on the sheet metal panels thus installed.
The ground floor is open to the outside like a great show window. In order to prevent any vandalism, the entire surface can be protected by means of sliding frames executed from the same perforated sheeting that closes off the volumes of the upper levels.
Four large towers of light situated on the corners create a lure from the distance and positions the building in it. They are major references with a triangular ground plan geometry that lean over the football pitch to generate a sculptural value. The towers contain not only the projectors that illuminate the playing field without projecting shadows on it, but also become in themselves large lighting elements as their sustaining metal structure is filled with fluorescent tubes that project their light to the outside through the translucent material of the cladding.
The ramps leading to the grandstands, situated in the corners, are visually open to the outside via large glass panes that create a visual sensation of continuity with the external public space.
Artificial light has great importance in the project, and not only from the strictly functional perspective inherent to a football stadium. It has been treated like another material capable of generating truly attractive formal and spatial concepts. Thus, to the already indicated use for illuminating the entire facade –creating highly suggestive nocturnal effects, especially in the way it strikes the enclosing aluminium sheeting—or the total lighting of the corner towers, it would be necessary to add the importance it acquires on the grandstand roof via the large polygonal “skylights” that dot its entire surface.

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Localización: Palencia. Autor: Francisco José Mangado Beloqui, arquitecto. Colaboradores: José M. Gastaldo, Koldo Fernández, Francesca Fiorelli, Enrique Jerez, Hugo Mónica e Ibon Vicinay. Arquitectos técnicos: Directores ejecución de obra: José Manuel Méndez (Inmobiliaria Rio Vena), Leandro Sacristán (Construcciones Arraz Acinas), José Miguel Martín (Hormigones Sierra). Coordinador de seguridad y salud: Luís Ángel Pérez Peraita. Jefes de obra: Cristina Vadillo Rodrigo y Luís Ángel Pérez Peraita. Jefe de grupo en obra: Alberto Julián Gutiérrez. Ingeniería estructuras: NB 35. Ingeniería instalaciones: TEICON. Construcción: UTE Nueva Balestera, constituida por Grupo Inmobiliaria Río Vena, Construcciones Arranz Acinas y Hormigones Sierra. Promotor: Delegación del Área de Urbanismo, Vivienda y Medio Ambiente. Obras y Servicios. Ayuntamiento de Palencia. Fotografía: Roland Halbe.
Francisco José Mangado Beloquí
Pamplona, Navarra
Roland Halbe
Stuttgart, Alemania