How to Build for the World Cup: Albert Speer, Jr. and Qatar’s Dream Football City
June 4, 2012
Albert Speer & Partner’s stadium designs; All images: Qatar 2022 via Getty Images
Living under Dad is tough, we all know it. Living in the shadow of a famous architecture father, worse. Trying to make it on your own while living with the legacy of Nazi dad and the Third Reich’s chief architect, um…
That’s the story of prominent German architect and urban planner Albert Speer, who shares his name with his notorious father, if also the latter’s visionary faculties. Speer the Younger (now 77) has built a reputation for himself as a sustainable practitioner–the first of the kind in Germany–and a builder of cities, including an “automobile city” near Shanghai for 50,000 inhabitants, a new satellite city near Cairo for 3 million, and, most recently, the $140 billion sports campus Qatar plans to build to host the 2022 World Cup. A recent profile by Der Spiegel finds the architect in Doha, where he presented his firm’s colorful visions for the sustainable sporting city.
Speer’s 120-person strong Frankfurt firm, Albert Speer & Partners, has designed 8 new “self-cooling” stadiums for the tiny oil rich island nation, all with integrated smart and sustainable technologies that helped win over Qataris two years ago when competitions were launched for the design and planning of the World Cup. Presently, the country has only 3 sporting venues, to which will be added Speer’s new carbon-neutral stadiums, plus the event’s premiere pitch, Norman Foster’s Lusail Iconic Stadium. The structures were also designed to be temporary, Speers says, to be “disassembled and removed so they could later be given to poorer countries as smaller sports venues.” Their exuberant formal massings were meant to convey imagery of the local culture, but they end up coming off as trivial, even banal.
But building icons isn’t Speer’s bag, the architect admits. He’s more interested in big problems and the big “solutions” to answer them, citing the foundation of urban systems as a far more fertile and pressing endeavor. His football city will spawn several acres of hotel space, an international airport capable of accommodating 60 million passengers a year, not too mention lasting infrastructural projects, including a 320-kilometer high-speed commuter railways and a 22-kilometer bridge linking Qatar to the region beyond, that will significantly shape the island’s future to come.
It’s perhaps unfair to wince at Speer’s eagerness for large-scale developments, yet his projects has consistently maintained a distance from the political sphere. The architect works where his services are needed, reasoning that “Germans should be able to work in countries with a German embassy.” Given his clients’ exorbitant wealth and their willingness to experiment, the opportunity in Qatar presents a chance for Speer to implement his decades-long research into green technologies at an unprecedented scale.