Zaha Hadid Architects wins £114m Danish Aarhus design competition

The team comprising of Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), architecture and engineering consultancy Sweco and landscape architects Tredje Natur has won the competition to design a new 20,000-25,000 capacity football stadium in Aarhus, Denmark, which will become the new home of Danish Superliga side, AGF Fodbold (AGF).

The team was one of six teams initially shortlisted back in January for the £114 million (DKK1 billion) city-backed commission to create a new waterfront home for AGF.

Following an anonymous concept design contest, the list was reduced to three contenders, ZHA, AFL with Copenhagen’s Cobe, and Danish firm Dorte Mandrup.

The ZHA team’s design, titled the ‘Arena of the Forest’, was chosen as the overall winner. The judges praised the ‘striking columns’ and proposed use of wood in its construction, inspired by the ‘old tree trunks in the forests’ surrounding the stadium in the Kongelunden area.

The project’s backers, including the two main sponsors, Lind Invest and Salling Fondene, said the concept had ‘understood and interpreted the very special location in the old forests of Marselisborg and next to the iconic and historic building Stadionhallerne’.

The ZHA team’s design has been chosen as the overall winner for the new Aarhus Stadium development. The single-tier bowl will bring fans as close to the action as possible. Image above, top and below, courtesy: ZHA

The project brief called for a ‘beautiful and ground-breaking’ arena on a prominent site currently home to the city’s existing sports stadium within the Aarhus Sports Park close to Aarhus Bay and the Marselisborg Woods.

The ‘one-tier bowl’ stadium is being constructed as part of the city’s Vision Kongelunden regeneration programme and will bring spectators as close to the pitch as possible.

Scheduled for opening in 2026, the complex will cover 69,912 square meters, including the Aarhus arena and the renovation of the adjacent ‘Stadionhallerne’ building completed in 1918 by architect Axel Høgh-Hansen.

The design of the new building is driven by reusing the existing stadium’s materials, reducing environmental impact, and enhancing the experience and historical value.

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Home to Aarhus Gymnastikforening (AGF) football club, the current Aarhus Stadium opened in 1920. While a series of refurbishments were undertaken between 1948 and 2004, the existing stadium no longer meets the standards required to host large-scale events. In addition, the long distances between spectators and the football pitch within the current stadium were an obstacle to a true game experience.

ZHA is currently working on another timber football ground, Forest Green Rovers’ new Eco Park Stadium in Gloucestershire, England.

Making the shortlist

AFL Architects was named as one of three finalists. AFL’s design was led by senior architect Rita Ochoa and was in collaboration with local Danish architects, Cobe, along with Buro Happold and Turner & Townsend.

With sustainability at the heart of the new stadium, the project had an ambitious sustainability strategy with upcycling and reuse of building components from the existing stadium which is only 20 years old. It also reflected its cultural heritage with the facade concept based on the idea of a cone in the clearing of the forest, with facade scales inspired by the leaves of the trees of Kongelunden – filtering light and atmosphere.

Rita Ochoa said:

The Aarhus design competition is one of the most prestigious design competitions in Europe so we were delighted to be recognised by the judging panel as one of the finalists. Thank you to all the team including local partner, Cobe architects in Copenhagen and other industry stakeholders including Buro Happold and Turner & Townsend.

Source & imagery, courtesy: ZHA / AFL

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