Earlier this month I was reminded of the massive potential of mixed use developments when a well-known top flight English football club opened their long-awaited new stadium. Nestled in north London, the officially titled Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has been 10 years in the making after the team retired their former soccer cathedral known as White Hart Lane in 2017. Capable of holding over 62,000 die-hard supporters and fans, Chairman Daniel Levy’s vision, however, extends well beyond Tottenham’s core base thanks to an incredibly audacious design.
Towering at nearly 50 meters, the new stadium sparkles like a diamond encrusted gem on the London horizon. It sports some of the newest developments in lighting, acoustics, and even an exclusively cashless payment system. The new stadium even has its own microbrewery, inviting craft-brew loving fans to stay a while (before and after the match). The main attraction, however, is most certainly the southern facing wall known as the South Stand. Standing tall at 34m, the highly distinguishable section holds 17,500 (the most in England in one section of a stadium) and is capable of producing a thunderous roar that reverberates throughout the grounds at the sight of a Tottenham goal scored. Inspired by the the ‘Yellow Wall’ at Germany’s Borussia Dortmund club, the section is designed to help create the ‘heartbeat’ of the crowd and the stadium as a whole. In the end, however, what makes the South Stand truly unique is what it can hold underneath.
On any given night, Tottenham’s delicately Dutch-grown pitch can be fully retracted underneath the three-tiered section of the stadium, where it will receive cooling, water and even lighting treatment when not in use. Meanwhile, underneath where the pitch previously sat is an NFL regulation size artificial turf field, which will serve as the canvas for NFL UK games and rugby matches. According to SCX (the firm tasked with the design and execution of the €1 billion project), when it’s time to move the grass back into place, three sections move independently before being perfectly lined up and raised via a hydraulic mechanism, lifting the field to a pleasant eye level for the first row fans. The process takes all of 25 minutes to complete.
Multi-use developments like these are critical to long-term environmental and social sustainability. Dramatic shifts in landscape, climate, politics and culture call for dynamic design and perception. When envisioning the future of multi-use functionality, Mark Twain’s words come to mind: “you can’t trust your eyes if your imagination is out of focus”.