Real Madrid CF’s Bernabéu Stadium renovation by gmp, L35 Arquitectos, and Ribas & Ribas Arquitectos finishes in Spain


Real Madrid CF’s Bernabéu Stadium renovation by gmp, L35 Arquitectos, and Ribas & Ribas Arquitectos finishes in Spain

Estadio Santiago Bernabéu has been reclad with stainless steel louvers. (Miguel de Guzmán and Rocío Romero)

A major renovation on Real Madrid CF’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium by gmp Architekten (Gerkan, Marg & Partners) recently came to a close in Spain. The international office headquartered in Germany collaborated with Spanish firms L35 Arquitectos and Ribas & Ribas Arquitectos on the soccer stadium project.

gmp Architekten, L35 Arquitectos, and Ribas & Ribas Arquitectos beat out stiff competition for the commission. In 2014, these three firms defeated Foster & Partners, Rafael Moneo, Herzog & de Meuron, Populous, and other offices in an international competition hosted by Real Madrid CF president Florentino Pérez.

Now, ten years later, the winning design has come to life which allows for both soccer games and concerts to take place at the legendary Madrid venue. To christen the grand reopening, Taylor Swift hosted a sold-out concert there in late May—a litmus tests of sorts that team officials called “a major test for Real Madrid’s refurbished stadium.” Other future performers will include Luis Miguel, KAROL G, Thornz, Aventura, and Aitan.

stadium seating
The stadium now has 83,000 seats. (Miguel de Guzmán and Rocío Romero)

The most visible change at Bernabéu Stadium is its new look: The historic Brutalist exoskeleton was recently swapped out with a new wraparound facade made of stainless steel louvers for natural ventilation purposes. The megastructure also now has a retractable lawn that gives way to a fixed ground slab which enables a wide range of events, like Taylor Swift concerts. Equally prescient, Bernabéu Stadium also now has a retractable roof of epic proportions which allows for matches to happen no matter the weather.

The new stadium’s appearance was conceived as a “sparkling jewel,” architects said. At night, LEDs illuminate the facade in varying scenarios. In the future, video images will be mapped on the facade louvers allowing for crowds to watch Real Madrid matches from the street. A 360-degree monitor for the stadium’s interior is also being planned.

For years, the stadium was known for its concrete shell. But now, the curved 7,500 V-shaped slats of stainless steel create a sense of translucency and allow for views both inward and outward. “The most conspicuous new feature is the facade, which unifies different elements of the stadium and puts an end to the heterogeneity previously created by various alterations since the 1947 opening of the stadium,” said Markus Pfisterer, gmp’s lead project designer.

close-up of louvers
The louvers allow for natural ventilation. (Miguel de Guzmán and Rocío Romero)

The perforated envelope was both an aesthetic and sustainability choice. The skin introduces controlled natural ventilation in the 1.35 million-square-foot complex. “The degree of openness for every single metal louver can be adjusted according to functional needs and daylighting opportunity,” added gmp executive partner Stephan Schütz. Then on the facade’s upper level, a curved promenade encloses the structure, offering panoramic views out to the exterior plaza.

archival image of Estadio Bernabeu
Estadio Bernabeu circa 1955 (Biblioteca de la Facultad de Empresa y Gestión Pública Universidad de Zaragoza/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

The stadium is named after Santiago Bernabéu, the legendary Spanish footballer and former Real Madrid president. Today, it’s one of the world’s most famous sports arenas—Real Madrid on average has over 37 million television viewers for each match, and the stadium has capacity for 83,000 fans.

Spanish architects Manuel Muñoz Monasterio and Luis Alemany Soler designed the stadium’s original bones, which completed in 1947 under Franco. It was then renovated in 1955 so it could accommodate 125,000 visitors. More additions came in the 1970s when the stadium’s first electronic scoreboard was added, among other changes.

Later, the stadium’s capacity was reduced from 125,000 to 80,000 to make way for important alterations. Then around 2010, Real Madrid CF president Florentino Pérez launched a $130 million master plan to improve the complex in the heart of the city.

Exterior view of Estadio Bernabeu before recent renovation
Exterior view of Estadio Bernabeu circa 2015 (© Marcus Bredt)

In 2012, Madrid City Council Members approved the General Urban Development Plan which allowed Pérez to build out the stadium and reclad its facade. The international competition was announced later that year, which garnered many highly competitive submissions. gmp Architekten, L35 Arquitectos, and Ribas & Ribas Arquitectos ultimately came out on top. Their design, which just completed this month, transformed the complex into an innovative and versatile multifunctional arena, the design team said.

The remodeling increases stadium capacity by adding another 3,000 seats. Atop the upper tiers, a new level was added with 240 VIP seats and hospitality lounges where another 1,600 seats are located.

construction on Estadio Bernabeu
Estadio Bernabeu under construction circa 2023 (Miguel de Guzmán and Rocío Romero)

The architects note that the west side’s boxes can be reconfigured with a view overlooking the field. To allow for both concerts and soccer games on the same pitch, a system of movable platforms have been installed that allow the soccer turf to be moved in sections and lowered below ground. What remains then is a fixed ground slab where concert stages can be installed.

This newly completed project in Madrid adds to gmp Architekten’s portfolio of completed stadium projects in South Africa, China, Brazil, Italy, Poland and Germany.

In October 2024, an exhibition will be held at the Goethe-Institut USA in New York called UMBAU.Nonstop Transformation which will showcase the stadium’s design and construction.