written by:
June 14, 2014
Good architecture makes the beautiful game look even better.
Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, South Africa

Moses Mabhida Stadium (Durban, South Africa: 2010 World Cup)

The grandiose steel arch stretching over this stadium, inspired by the “Y” in the South African flag, could also stand in as a metaphor of continuity and reuse, since this stadium has become a Durban icon. With colorful seating shaded to resemble water flowing into the ocean and a covering of Teflon-coated glass fiber that glow when lit against the night sky, the design flows as well as a well-executed set of passes.

Photo by Marcus Bredt

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Oita Bank Dome in Oita, Japan

Oita Bank Dome (Oita, Japan: 2002 World Cup)

Called the “Big Eye,” since the retractable roof appears to wink when closed, the Kisho Kurokawa-designed elliptical stadium is clad with semi-transparent Teflon membrane panels on the roof, which allow natural light in during the day. During a more philosophical moment, Kurokawa reflected upon how the design recalled our "third eye."

Photo by NRTB, Creative Commons

2 / 9
Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico
Estadio Azteca (Mexico City, Mexico: 1970 and 1986 World Cups)

It’s easy for this classic stadium to be overshadowed by the incredible football that’s taken place on its pitch, from the “Hand of God” goal and 1970’s “Game of the Century” between Italy and West Germany to a pair of electrifying World Cup finals. Architects Pedro Ramirez Vasquez and Rafael Mijares studied stadiums overseas for years, eventually creating an iconic venue that, with it’s sound trapping overhangs and incredible altitude, has functioned like a 12th man supporting the Mexican national squad, which has rarely lost here.

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Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany
Allianz Arena (Munich, Germany: 2006 World Cup)

Luminous and lofty, Allianz Arena lit up the 2006 competition with its revolutionary façade, a membrane of inflated plastic panels that can change color. Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron designed the stadium to put spectators as close to the action as possible.

Photo by Mohamed Yahya, Creative Commons

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Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa
Soccer City Stadium (Johannesburg, South Africa: 2010 World Cup)

The “African Pot,” site of many vuvuzelas and victories during the 2010 contest, was designed to resemble the calabash, a curved gourd that was one of the earliest cultivated plants. At night, lights highlight a ring of tan, crimson, and clay colored tiles wrapped around the exterior.

Photo by shanediaz120, Creative Commons

5 / 9
Arena Das Dunas in Natal, Brazil
Arena Das Dunas (Natal, Brazil: 2014 World Cup)

Christopher Lee of Populous allowed beautiful, organic curves to guide his design for one of the three new stadiums debuting during this World Cup. Flowering petals form the façade, channeling the shape of nearby dunes while sloping in a way that allows sea breezes to pass over spectators.

Photo by Populous

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Stade de France in Saint Denis, France
Stade de France (Saint Denis, France: 1998 World Cup)

While it was ostensibly built as a symbol of national unity and identity, French soccer fans will never forget how this stadium became hallowed ground when Zinedine Zidane led his team to a 3-0 World Cup victory over Brazil in 1998. Its straightforward, elliptical design and various modular features has helped to give it a second life beyond its staring role in a previous tournament.

Photo by Alpha du centaure, Creative Commons

7 / 9
Studio San Nicola in Bari, Italy
Stadio San Nicola (Bari, Italy: 1990 World Cup)

Dubbed “The Spaceship,” Stadio San Nicola sits within a depression, an otherworldly shape peeking out above the landscape. Designed by Renzo Piano with ring of 26 concrete petals encircling the upper tier, it was both an architectural statement as well as a step forward for safety (a string of accidents before construction at other stadiums made its inclusion of multiple accessible exits a major selling point). Unfortunately, San Nicola has seen better days, having deteriorated over time due to lack of use after the World Cup.

Photo courtesy footballpictures.net

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Ullevi Stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden
Ullevi (Gothenburg, Sweden: 1958 World Cup)

Named after the Norse god of games, Sweden’s largest outdoor stadium may be many decades old, but it hasn’t fallen behind its younger brethren in terms of innovation. A massive bank of solar cells installed in 2007 generates enough electricity to run lighting during evening concerts and events.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

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Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, South Africa

Moses Mabhida Stadium (Durban, South Africa: 2010 World Cup)

The grandiose steel arch stretching over this stadium, inspired by the “Y” in the South African flag, could also stand in as a metaphor of continuity and reuse, since this stadium has become a Durban icon. With colorful seating shaded to resemble water flowing into the ocean and a covering of Teflon-coated glass fiber that glow when lit against the night sky, the design flows as well as a well-executed set of passes.

Photo by Marcus Bredt

Getting worked up over the results of a World Cup match is second nature for the football faithful, but that angst isn’t usually directed towards the pitch. But that was the fan response after Italy beat England Saturday at Arena de Amazonia in the rainforest city of Manaus, a stadium shaping up to be a massive folly after it was revealed that groundskeepers had to paint part of the field green. Stadium construction has been a fitting flashpoint in Brazil due to delays and cost overruns, but it obscures the effect that incredible construction, such as Arena Das Dunas, can have on elevating the game. Dwell collected some of the most innovative and architecturally sound sites that have played host to the world’s biggest sporting event, many of which have become permanent fixtures in the urban landscape.

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