With millions watching the first World Cup to be held on the African continent, the spotlight is on the host country — and the stadiums commissioned for the games.

Moses Mabhida Stadium

Situated on the Indian Ocean, Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium is perhaps the most assimilated in terms of its long-term vision.

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The country’s eThekwini Municipality, which includes the City of Durban, stipulated in its brief that the stadium should be a symbol of civic pride and inspiration and draw on the physical features that give identity and character to the site — the sea, the Umgeni River, and the sand dunes.

Julie-May Ellingson of the Municipality’s Strategic Projects Unit and 2010 Programme explains that the stadium, situated at the heart of the city, had to be completely integrated with its urban context. “In addition to capturing the attention and excitement of the world, this project is about the city’s future.”

Like Cape Town, this venue was planned, designed, and realized as a cooperative effort. Here Ibhola Lethu Consortium Architects, a joint venture of Durban-based firms including Theunissen Jankowitz Durban, Ambro-Afrique Consultants, Osmond Lange Architects & Planners, Mthulisi Msimang Architects, and NSM Designs collaborated with gmp on the concept design and documation. The implementation was handled by the local firms; the urban design by Ambro-Afrique and Iyer Rothaug Collaborative.

The site forms a catalyst for the development of the Kingspark Sports Precinct, scheduled to become a leading multisport and leisure destination, with restaurants, shops, landscaped open areas, and a pedestrian walkway linking the stadium complex to the beachfront. Lead architect Gerhard le Roux of Theunissen Jankowitz Durban says, “Because of the project’s impact on the city, the architects and urban designers had a responsibility to consider the urban design right from the harbor through to the Umgeni River, including roads and open spaces.”

This includes the completed 25-acre landscaped People’s Park, which is intended to serve as a central park for Durban and includes sports fields, lawns, a promenade, and cycle tracks, and Heroes’ Walk, dedicated to icons of sport culture and political change.

The stadium is visible from most parts of the city, so one of the key design considerations was how it would affect the urban skyline. The final solution is an iconic bisecting arch that establishes a recognizable means of orientation. The 348-foot-high arch, spanning 1,148 feet, is set on massive concrete foundations and supports a PTFE-coated membrane roof on a steel-cable structure. Visitors can catch a spectacular view of the city and ocean at the arch’s highest point, reached by a cable car or a guided walk up 550 stairs.

Other elements that mediate between city and bowl are the stadium “window,” which opens the playing field to the city, and the perforated steel facade, which exchanges views between structure and surroundings. These elements also consider the hot, humid Durban climate by facilitating natural cross ventilation.

In terms of sustainability, the Moses Mabhida Stadium is equipped with energy-efficient lighting and HVAC systems, and People’s Park is irrigated by rainwater harvested from the stadium’s roof.

A substantial amount of concrete from the demolition of the old stadium was crushed and reused in the new stadium, and 400 tons of steel were recovered in the recycling process.

“The entire financial viability of the stadium was around minimizing operating costs and maximizing revenue,” Ellingson says. The seating capacity of 70,000 for the World Cup can be increased to 85,000 for larger events such as the Olympic Games. Moreover, improved pedestrian access and open spaces ensure that the stadium’s contingent 99,028-square-foot retail component; attractions such as the Sky Car, Adventure Walk, and stadium tours; and various hospitality establishments are easily reached by the public so that the stadium becomes a magnet in a vibrant and “connected” sports precinct.