Page D1.1 . 27 March 2013   
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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The Story of Wembley Stadium

by Norman Foster

The original Empire Stadium at Wembley was one of the wonders of its age. The focal point of the 1924 British Empire Exhibition, it was designed by Sir John Simpson and Maxwell Ayrton and engineered by Sir Owen Williams.

Described at its opening as 'the greatest arena in the world', it was also one of the largest, holding 120,000 mostly standing spectators. The stadium was pioneering in being built entirely from concrete and remarkable for being completed in just 300 days. Over time, it became an international symbol for excellence — the stadium where every footballer in the world aspired to play.

Our involvement with Wembley dates back to 1995, when we were commissioned to create a masterplan for Wembley Stadium, with Brent Council, in response to the Sports Council competition that would decide the location of a new English National Stadium. In 1996, as a result of that competition, Wembley was selected over sites in four other English cities.

As we began to think about the form of the stadium we decided we should consult HOK (now Populous) — the leading stadium designers in the United States — and LOBB, who had designed Stadium Australia and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

We eventually decided to work together on the project and subsequently submitted to become architects of the stadium itself. The client for the new stadium was the newly established English National Stadium Development Company, later to become Wembley National Stadium Limited (WNSL).

Delighted at winning the competition, we decided to call ourselves the World Stadium Team. The first questions we asked ourselves as a team were: what constitutes the best of its kind in the world today; how can we create a new generation stadium; how can we learn from previous stadiums; and what form does such a building take?

Beyond its performance as a stadium, the project also had to be conceptually robust enough to withstand many other challenges — political and financial — though we did not know that when we began.   >>>

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This article is excerpted from Wembley Stadium by Norman Foster & Simon Inglis, copyright © 2012, with permission of the publisher, Prestel.

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A design team led by Foster + Partners, and including Populous, designed the new Wembley Stadium (2007) in London, England, replacing the original 1923 stadium.
Photo: Nigel Young/ Foster + Partners Extra Large Image

ArchWeek Image

Depending on its configuration, the new Wembley Stadium can accommodate up to 90,000 spectators in three shaded decks.
Photo: Nigel Young/ Foster + Partners Extra Large Image


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