How important is the legacy of large economic investment in cities for major events, and what role can architects play?
This is a fundamental issue for any city that is interested in hosting major events. For such a large investment to secure local support and take advantage of focused global attention, a lasting legacy must be priority number one. Unfortunately, it is all too often an afterthought.
Brought in at the ground level, architects can effectively communicate a long-term vision for cities and local organising committees (LOCs). Through the built form, and through innovative design decisions, both the one-off event and the future legacy can be realised as one coherent journey.
Architects can help develop the best solutions for long-term infrastructure reuse and economic outcomes for a city. Even a sport cluster that is intended to be used for its original purpose can leave a practical legacy if the surrounding support infrastructure improves the wider city region. Likewise, enhancements to the built environment that support a City of Culture event need long-term business planning to make sure that the running of a new collection of large public buildings is self-sustaining.
AFL Architects is putting together a major events whitepaper for just this reason. We want to help LOCs plan wisely for a sustainable legacy when bidding for major events. After all, the single largest cost in most events is the built form. Getting this right – while at the same time preparing for the long-term use post-event – can make or break a city for years to come.
Why should sports, residential, healthcare and other building types be considered together when masterplanning?
Masterplans are the bedrock of any major city development. It goes without saying that the most successful masterplans incorporate appropriate mixes of many building use types around generous public open spaces and good transport links.
AFL’s multi-sector design studio positions us very well for large scale development sites where residential development, for example, may be necessary to underpin the financial viability of a stadium or arena development. Likewise, a community health and wellbeing centre could form a hub for a sustainable masterplan mixed with a new or improved educational facility to provide the long-term community facilities that a city region requires to maintain family life.
How will the Hull Venue help the UK City of Culture to attract cross-sector events and visitors beyond 2017?
The story of Hull Venue’s development is an interesting case study for how architects can influence a long-term legacy. When we were first approached by Hull City Council to design a new multi-purpose events arena as part of its tenure of UK City of Culture, our first question to the council was – why do you want to build a 10,000-seat arena? From a pure business standpoint, we were talking our way out of a larger job! However, our overriding feeling was that the building had to be designed with a solid business plan underpinning the legacy use.
Our second question was – what did multi-purpose truly mean? We wanted to break away from the traditional approach of designing a sports arena that was a second-class venue for alternative uses, so we decided to dig down and create something that was truly multi-purpose.
We brought in experts in venue business planning to create a truly three-dimensional brief. This would take in the appropriate scale of the venue and the ideal mix of event types that Hull would benefit from long term. Essentially, we all agreed that the venue needed to be sized based on the regional catchment and facilities provided that were lacking in the city and wider region.
The outcome of this process was a venue sited right in the city centre with a maximum capacity of 3,500. This would be perfect for its primary use as a live music venue, with the ability to scale down for entertainment shows and smaller events. At the same time, functions such as conferences, exhibitions and banquets requiring only 800 attendees would benefit from the large floor plate that the building would provide.
The design process was a delicate balancing act which we believe has played out well in the final design. Now being constructed and due to open next year, Hull Venue will continue the legacy of Hull 2017, attracting thousands of visitors right into the centre of Hull for years to come.
How do you think your work at the AIMAG will contribute to the ongoing development of Ashgabat and Turkmenistan?
Although the stadium was built to host the opening and closing ceremonies for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games 2017, it needed to also be designed for a sporting legacy as part of the wider Olympic Complex in Ashgabat.
The brief was to be both IAAF and FIFA compliant while being able to host ceremonies and concerts. As these are not directly compatible we took the approach to design for athletics first while optimising for football use and then incorporating other events into the design modes.
Configuring the stadium seating bowl and sports facilities for all these events was a challenging exercise, with conflicting sight lines, c-values and program. The final design optimises all the requirements while minimising seat loss in football, which is a common issue with this type of multipurpose venue. This means that with only minor modifications, this venue could feasibly host a future FIFA Football World Cup group game on top of its existing capabilities to host tournaments such as the IAAF World Athletics Championships.
What are your further ambitions for the major events sector internationally?
As world leaders in delivering truly flexible and adaptable stadiums, arenas and masterplans, we want to create closer collaborations with our clients at the very start of their major event journeys. It is only in this way that cities can realise their visions for a sustainable future.
Above all, we want to create legacies that improve the places where we live and work, optimise costs and above all – deliver a world-class experience.