Architects : GMP Architects, Louis Karol Architects, Point Architects
Article and photographs by Phillip Newmarch
This project has been fairly controversial, one way and another. The location was chosen against the advice of most consultants, and some pulled out.
Lower Cape Town pointed out, with some justification, that R4b would build a lot of houses. Middle Cape Town was concerned about the traffic, due to the site being on the wrong side of town. Upper Cape Town was mostly concerned about the size of the 'wart' growing on the end of its pretty nose. So, how bad is it?
A - H show Photograph locations. ( note : E - F are further off the map)
Green Point Common is one of two 'commons' in Cape Town. Unlike Rondebosch Common, it is mostly an odd lot of assorted sport fields and their clubhouses.Bounded by double main roads on one side and backsides of sea-front flats on the other, it is a rather utilitarian place whose main virtue was, up till now, its 100 odd hectares of relative emptiness.Apart from a few dog-walkers and a good many learner drivers it did not attract much in the way of spontaneous recreation.I don't think anybody ever had their wedding pictures taken there.
Some 40m high and covering about 6 hectares, the new stadium certainly fills a lot of that emptiness and establishes itself as the commanding focus of the area.However, its size is more apparent from a distanceand seems to diminish as one approaches.This is partly due to its round shape and the fact that are few other buildings in its immediate vicinity, but more deliberately, due to its simplicity and lack of surface detail.
The entire stadium building is clad with a translucent fibreglass fabric which picks up the ambient light and colour while allowing a hint of the underlying structure to show through. The wavy, rounded form is emphasised by the thin horizontal bands supporting the fabric, giving a surprisingly fragile effect that depends almost entirely on the play of light. This comes into its own when the stadium seen with the sea behind it, and a certain nautical character becomes evident.
It might seem odd to talk of minimalism or subtlety in respect of such a very large project, but I think that is what comes to mind.The approach to the design has been very restrained and focussed, and it works, at least as far as its visual impact is concerned.Certainly, it is large and very visible, but there is nothing to detract from its rather graceful shape, which appears mostly as transient lights and shadows like a kind of mirage.
Cape Town is unusual in that its City Centre is nowhere near its middle, but on its Western extremity, with its wealthiest suburbs clustered close by.All major routes to the centre have to pass through a fairly narrow space between the mountain and the sea.While it remains the largest magnet, its eccentricity (perhaps in more ways than one) is already problematic, particularly as regards transport.The Cape Town Stadium is unique in being closely grafted onto the City Centre, and more particularly, into its existing waterfront shopping, entertainment and hotel hub, on land that would normally be extremely valuable.
It is easy to see the attraction of such a location, especially if one focuses on the World Cup event itself, when many patrons will be visitors from elsewhere.60 000 visitors can eat a lot of sushi, but locals will need hot dogs and lots of busses.