Zaha Hadid Architects’ (ZHA) proposal for an appropriately themed “eco stadium” for football club the Forest Green Rovers will finally move ahead. Last week, the English Football League approved plans to realize the club’s new Eco Park Stadium in Gloucestershire, England, which will be the first soccer stadium to use timber for the structural elements as well as the floor slabs.
According to The Architects’ Journal, ZHA originally won the design competition for the 5,000-seat stadium in 2016, although the firm was sent back to the drawing board when Stroud District Council’s planning committee necessitated changes to the adjoining business park in June of 2019. Now that Eco Park Stadium has been approved and is on track for construction, it will anchor the titular 100-acre Eco Park, a technology business campus development from British energy company Ecotricity.
Sitting in a plum pastoral location, Eco Park Stadium will be, as mentioned, built almost entirely from timber, including the entrance portals and floor slabs, with the exception of a translucent canopy stretched over the seating that will allow sunlight to enrich the natural grass pitch. The stadium’s mass undulates upwards at the sides to create room for multitiered seating arrangements as well as multi-story, almost reverential voids for visitors at ground level. The first phase of the stadium is planned for the aforementioned 5,000 seats, but ZHA’s scheme will reportedly allow the structure to expand to up to 10,000 seats in phase 2 with minimal construction.
Dale Vince, Ecotricity founder and Forest Green Rovers chairman, said in a press release provided by ZHA that, “The really standout thing about this stadium is that it’s going to be almost entirely made of wood–the first time that will have been done anywhere in the world.
“The importance of wood is not only that it’s naturally occurring, it has very low embodied carbon—about as low as it gets for a building material.” In a separate interview with Sky Sports on February 5, Vince admitted that it would likely be three-to-four years before the club played at Eco Park, as the infrastructure at the site still needed to be built up.
Eco Park will be broken into two sections: The sports section, which will hold the stadium, surrounding public soccer fields, a sports science hub, and “multi-disciplinary facilities,” which will join a green technology business park with room for up to 4,000 employees, including Ecotricity.