It’s a big year for stadiums. Olympic year means a series of spectacularly good and spectaculary bad stadiums are almost complete for this summers games. Meanwhile designs for Londons 2012 stadiums are caught in a loop of revision, press release and public vilification. The problem for stadium designers is to work out where the design should go now that the workings of a stadium have become so formulaic: Fosters Wembley is about holding the stadium up with that great big arch, for Herzog & de Meuron its about how you wrap up the outside in both the Allianz Arena and the Beijing National Stadium. But for most stadia there is no escape from the technicalities of the programme. As if often the case, an amazing idea wriggles free from the tightest of situations. At some point, somebody must have noticed the potential of all those seats arranged in rows to become something more than the sum of its parts. Maybe they were daydreaming as they fixed them down, or were struck by a bolt of inspiration while compiling the seating schedule. At some point, someone had a Eureka moment when they realised arrangement of coloured plastic seats could be used to make giant words and pictures. A moment of alchemy when the practical and prosaic is transformed. An doubled up efficiency – where the mechanisms of seating suddenly through their number become giant sized media. The arrangements switch between the scale of a chair and the scale of a extra large billboard, these it made watching those Football Focus interviews with Tony Gubba in an empty stadium worth watching.
For some reason the technique that seems common in Europe – examples here range from Wales in the west to Russia in the East, and almost all are soccer stadiums. There are a few American Football stadiums, but they seem much more infrequently. Perhaps the technique has been passed around Europe via the Champions league, UEFA cup and so on. Perhaps its a function of way that stadiums operate. Maybe its because American Football treats it pitches as sites for graphic branding in a way that is an anathema to soccer pitches.
This technique of seat graphics is a static relation to the fluid, card waving displays of (old) Soviet or (current) North Korean card waving stadium displays. But more on that another time.