I have a handful of passions in my life, 5-10 things that add great joy and inexplicable pleasure to my existence. When those normally unrelated passions begin to overlap, then I start to get really excited. In this case, we’re talking soccer and architecture. Two very distinct realms which I love dearly.
A design firm based out of the UK recently unveiled a conceptual proposal for a set of stacked urban soccer pitches. The renderings show a 3-tiered, thinly structed ‘building’ with a small outdoor soccer field on each level – the typology most closely relates a multi-level parking garage, but I love the idea.
I think concepts like these are amazing because they’re so multi-faceted. AL_A describes the project as using ‘leftover’ space. You know these bits of land they’re talking about; those forgotten urban spaces often crammed awkwardly beside an onramp or overpass, usually municipal land serving no higher purpose than to create a sketchy part of town to walk through alone at night. A project like this doesn’t require a ton of space to build physically, and the structures can even act temporarily if future plans are proposed. Little to any parking is required, as these locations are typically in dense urban areas where the immediate local community can make it there on foot or by transit.
These are the same dense urban areas that are chronically underserved in terms of local sports and rec facilities. I know that if I had an accessible public soccer field within a few blocks I’d be there for pick-up games all the time. Which leads to another point, helping to create a stronger local community. Instead of a massive 20-field soccer complex that’s 45 minutes away, I’d much rather have a small field within walking distance where I’ll start seeing the same people every week and develop ties with other people in my own neighbourhood. These new friends will laugh and play, all the while participating in a healthy physical activity. Underutilized parts of the city that were dark and scary before, will now be filled with people coming and going and adding a sense of safety to the area. Plus they even look nice. That is an awful lot of benefits for a relatively small capital cost. I bet if people knew a local field project like this was being built you could partially fund it through donations by canvassing those who live nearby. I bet if the infrastructure was managed properly once built, it could even generate a little revenue. Crazyness.
Seeing this also reminded me of another project that came out earlier this year in Thailand, where a property developer and a digital agency created a whole series of oddly-shaped soccer fields in highly urbanized areas. Instead of saying that a space was too small or angled, they adopted the mindset of kids who can tend to make a game out of anything. They created a series of beautifully finished soccer fields complete with bends and turns, mis-shapen angles and corners. Instead of traditional 11 v. 11 games, it boats relaxed barefoot games among the local schoolkids, again fostering healthy living and an engaged local community, all the while improving the safety and aesthetic appeal of their immediate neighbourhood. What great use of ‘extra’ space, again with minimal costs. See the dezeen article with video here.
Another project in the soccer-architecture hybrid category that is similar in typology to the first, and actually built, is the soccer field/parking garage at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in Calgary, Canada. When constructing the school’s new underground parking garage, architects Bing Thom and Marshall Tittemore opted to put their school soccer field right on top. Not only does it have the nicest view of any field that I’ve played on, but they also had an artist create an image out of punctured steel over the entire Southern facade, ventilating the space while masking the ugly parking below with a visually interesting depiction of the local mountains. This creative project solved enough problems in such a visually appealing way that it won some design awards.
I would love to see more of these creative urban sport interventions.