Five years in Entertainment and Sport Architecture

I’ve been five years working at HOK London in Entertainment and Sports group. My previous experience was mainly related to façade optimization, double curved surfaces, rationalization and generative design. Therefore, when I started my work at HOK I had many new things to learn.

During these years I've been developing a software to analyze and design any kind of sports stand, from 80K Olympic stadiums capacity to 1K seat theatres. I called it SCRUM (inspired by my favorite sport - rugby). I’ve been designing, coding and re-redesigning SCRUM based on my coworkers’ suggestions, books, articles and my own experience as a Sport Architect.  SCRUM runs smoothly and fast, is highly accurate and extremely flexible when is necessary to explore different bowl design options. Sometimes I use SCRUM and Laga in synchrony to optimize existent designs, achieve more precise results or export data.  I will certainly write more about it soon.  Designing a bowl is not just sweeping a profile and placing gangways and Vomitories according to the green guide. Bowl design is a combat sport, a funny thriller full of crimes. Yes! Sometimes you must 'kill' some seats.

Please have a look at these two projects designed with the software: Yas Arena [1, 2, 3]and the Nou Palau Blaugrana[1, 2, 3].


Design a bowl is a combination of three passions: Rock, Rugby and Math. Rock because you need to be wild and dare to experiment, because in this job it’s difficult to innovate if you don’t have large resources. As a bowl designer you always must explore until exhaust all design options. What is interesting is this attitude is reflected in athletes and artists. Name any good artist, and you will see how they have been exploring until exhaust.

Rugby represents the passion for the history and tradition. For example, the team values we want to print through the design. We follow teams, because we feel identified with their culture and history. We work hard at HOK to express team finger prints in designs.

I love math because is a pure language free of hypocrisy and is the language that I use to design. Math is the language to ensure the best standards in the bowl. It’s also the way to measure design quality and the base of any conversation that I have with consultants. Math represents the passion for sustainability and not only in terms of environment, which is a priority, I mean economic sustainability.

A stadium or Basketball Arena they must be economic sustainable from the first minute, because the current business model will change. This will imply investment to adapt the venue to engage new fan generations. The adaptation needs to be fast, economic and flexible, because new technologies will appear, new fan cultures, new type of events and new sports.

It’s very difficult to resume 5 years and to many experiences in a brief article. I certainly exclude many topics, but this is personal view of the world of Entertainment and Sport Architecture. I will probably have some conclusions in 5 years. In the meantime, I will keep working with passion to design the most excited, secure and sustainable venues in the world.

Many thanks to:

Juan Cañada, Nuno Guerreiro, Lee Johnston, Mark Kennedy, Jihum Kim, Hoi Laam Leung, Kirsty Mitchell, Dimitar Pouchnikov, John Rhodes, John Tapia Owens, Marisa Vega.


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