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Talk at New London Architecture sheds fresh light on stadium design in the UAE

Dipesh Patel’s talk at NLA focused on design ideas at Pattern, the architectural practice he founded in 2010 to further advanced computation skills in the creation of efficient, innovative and distinct building components for memorable architecture. Patel told the story of the recently completely 25,000-seat Hazza Bin Zayed (HBZ) FIFA class football stadium in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi; a project that has been voted ‘Stadium of the Year’ by Stadium

The event was chaired by leading sports architecture writer Owen Pritchard, whose magazine AJ Specification features the stadium in its current issue. Pritchard was particularly interested in how the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium responds to its local context. Off-site manufacturing of building components made it easy to assemble and the fabric cladding system is a low maintenance solution that copes well with sandstorms, and does not require water to clean it. This is an important asset in a part of the world where water is in short supply.

Another highly responsive contextual element is the design of the roof of the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium. This is the first example in the region specifically designed for solar protection. Most stadia in the Gulf are based on the European model of a drip-line roof developed for wet climates and essentially redundant in arid parts of the world.

Patel and his team at Pattern are working on a number of other sports projects including a stadium for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The practice continues to look at ways to create low-tech solutions through complex modelling techniques that also bring cost down through an intelligent optimisation of design elements. For instance, as Patel’s colleague and Building Information Modelling (BIM) expert Eamonn Kelly noted at the NLA talk, “The varied and dynamic form of the Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium has been achieved using only 86 unique panel types.” This is an extremely cost-effective way to achieve what is ultimately a very sophisticated landmark for Al Ain.


Dipesh Patel will be a speaker at this September’s must-attend event, our Stadia & Arena Asia Pacific 2015 conference and exhibition; the leading event for sports venue design/build, management, operation and technology.


HBZ Stadium: Project Stats

HBZ Stadium opens its doors in 2014 as the new home of Al Ain Football Club, one of the leading clubs in the UAE Pro League. Designed by Pattern Architects, the 25,000-seat FIFA class football stadium introduces a new approach to sports architecture in the Gulf region by embedding Al Ainʼs identity into the very fabric of the design. Part of this identity is defined by the local desert climate and landscape.

Al Ain is the second largest city in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and has been inhabited for thousands of years. It is wellknown for its date palm plantations. Patternʼs design is inspired by the rotating fractural geometry of the date palm fronds. The architects used the latest parametric technology to create an outer facade that reflects this.

This “Palm Bole” facade also acts as a passive cooling device; shading the building during the heat of the day, whilst allowing fresh air to flow. Within the bowl this creates comfortable spectator conditions and aids grass growth for the pitch.

The roof for the HBZ Stadium is the first example in the region that is specifically designed for solar protection. Most stadia in the Gulf are based on the European model of a drip-line roof that has been developed for wet climates and is therefore redundant in arid parts of the world.

Pattern Architects took inspiration from the Arabic head-dress and created a sinuous and gravity-bending parasol roof that shades the pitch and the spectators during a match, whilst allowing enough sunlight on the natural grass pitch during the day to allow it to flourish. The apparent levitating form of the roof allows all spectators an unobstructed view of the action and intensifies the atmosphere within the bowl during the match.

A key area of investigation was audience segmentation. The venue’s unique slope-cut lower tier addresses this and results in more high value seats.

As a typology, HBZ Stadium is very much a sports venue in a community. Pedestrian access is encouraged and there is no sea of car parking around the stadium. The architecture also supports non-match day opportunities and a building that is a vibrant destination year-round.

Architect Dipesh Patel, Founder of Pattern, said:

HBZ Stadium is our first built project. It embodies our design principles of natural order, mathematics and visual harmony. We are very, very proud of it and what we have achieved as a practice going into our fourth year.

HBZ Key Design Credits:
The original client was The Crown Prince Court with the following design team:
Lead Design & Architecture: Pattern Design
Architect of Record: Mark Habre & Associate
Lead Consultant & Masterplanner: Broadway Malyan
Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti
Building Services: Hoare Lee
Post-contract the design team changed and was employed by BAM (Main Contractor):
Lead Design & Architecture: Pattern Design
Structural Engineer Roof: Schlaich Bergermann & Ptn
Structural Engineer Superstructure: WSP
Building Services: Hoare Lee


Catering: Tricon

Pitch Consultant: STRI

Transport: Mott MacDonald and Langan

Fire, Estidama, VT, Waste, Acoustics: Hoare Lea

Pattern Design Team Credits:
Past and present staff who have all contributed to HBZ Stadium (pre- and post-construction): Alan Mclean, Alice Aldous, Andrea Cunsolo, Andy Hau, Carol Taffinder, Celia Aldridge, Clare Kennedy, David Ola, Dipesh Patel, Eamonn Kelly, Ece Cakir, Edoardo Milli, Eldred Godson, Frank Anatole, Gabrielle Tester, Janet Ashong Lamptey, Jon-Scott Kohli, Laura Baker, Lindsay Johnston, Loreana Padron, Matthew Aidan, Michael Lowe, Myron Sullivan, Nick Tyrer, Patrick Tee, Prasanna Kumar, Ruth Hiscock, Tony Russell, and Vicky Chang.

Photography: Dennis Gilbert