Rock Stadium by Lebanese design firm MZ Architects hasn’t been built yet but it has already won two coveted international design awards, including Best Future Building of the Year at the 2012 LEAF Awards. Marwan Zgheib accepted this year’s award for Al Ain’s sunken Rock Stadium in London on 21 September, sharing a slice of architectural history with previous winners such as Zaha Hadid, SOM, and Steven Holl.
The Rock Stadium won an international design competition that called for a 40,000 seat stadium at Jebel Hafeet in the United Arab Emirates. When Zgheib first visited the site, he said he was instantly reminded of a Greek amphitheater setting.
“That’s how the idea of carving into the mountain came to light, similarly to the greek amphitheatre which worked with the topographic landscape of its site, and was generally carved out of the side of a hill, taking advantage of sloping hillsides for its terraced seating.”
Images of the site show Jebel Hafeet to be rough and raw, drier than stale crumbs and flanked by jagged earth that juts out from the ground, but Zgheib’s unique concept drawings envision a cunning transformation that avoids undue environmental harm.
“The materials proposed to be used for construction are the main sustainable feature of the project. When carving the tiers into the rocks, we suggest to recuperate the extracted stone and crash it to obtain a reusable building material. Mixed with adhesive, this material is remolded into man-made strata patterns thatwill shape the main façade of the stadium.”
Additionally, MZ Architects proposed to cover three platform-shaped concrete rocks with excavated sand, further entrenching the stadium into the severe landscape.
The Lebanese firm with offices in Lebanon, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates is pioneering a thoughtful and pragmatic approach to sustainable design that recognizes the unique challenges presented by the region’s extraordinary climate.
“Due to the harsh weather in the Gulf area (extreme heat in the summer and cold in the winter),” Zgheib explained, “architectural solutions alone are not always enough to achieve sustainability. Therefore, we are bound to rely on costly modern technologies.”
Zgheib strives to approach each project with fresh eyes to ensure that proposed solutions respond directly to the needs of each new client and site. Sadly, the Rock Stadium design came alive when the global economy crashed, but there’s still a chance that it will be become the future best building.
“In light of the worldwide recognition and success it has been getting,” said Zgheib, “I have high hopes and expect the Rock Stadium to be relaunched and built especially that this project can only be realized in this exact location in Jebel Hafeet.”