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Football's (be)coming Home

London Affordable Housing Challenge International Architecture Competition

Location: London, UK

Area: approx. 30,000 sq.ft.

Status: Submitted November 2018

Special thanks to Franco Au-Yeung & Jeffrey Lui

Home to five Premier League clubs and six teams in other professional leagues, London is the world’s undisputed football capital. There are currently 10 stadiums in London with capacity of over 10,000. The original Northumberland Development Project, together with the scheduled redevelopment of Stamford Bridge, would have made London the only city in the world with five football grounds holding 50,000-plus by 2024, with a projected capacity of 560,000 at 15 grounds combined.

The question, however, is whether it really requires such a large number of massive infrastructure to support its status, occupying valuable land in a city where housing is always in demand and rarely affordable. The original plan was to boost the capacity of Lilywhite Lane from 36,284 to 61,000, a thousand more than the Emirates Stadium just 4 miles away. Is it really necessary? Or is it an example of extreme excess? Rather than playing for sport and spirit, football in England has been increasingly driven by profit, with a primary goal to turn players into celebrities and games into revenue-generating events. The deluge of money in football has made construction fees immaterial, with clubs building ever-larger and more luxurious stadiums without considering their necessity and impact on the urban fabric.

Usually stadiums are used with low efficiency with only one or two games to be played every week. If clubs could share stadiums, a large footprint of land and infrastructure could be freed up and utilised in ways that fulfill more pressing needs in the city, e.g. providing essential affordable housing for low-income Londoners.

The Lilywhite Lane Redevelopment bucks the trend of building an architectural masterpiece in the form of a gigantic stadium or a massive housing complex. Instead, it takes a conservationist approach to salvage anything useful and meaningful, minimize material and avoid wastage of any kind. “Heritage plays an important role to football clubs in England and though the team won’t be playing at Lilywhite Lane anymore, it will remain a home for the team and its supporters,” the architect described as he shared images of salvaged stadium seatings. “For example, these will be used as chairs in the community library.”

The stadium has been modified and expanded several times over the course of the last century, and the redevelopment represents another significant makeover. “We aim to provide flexibility and sustainability in the estate.” Prefabricated units will be made off-site and transported to the stadium for installation. There will be three types of units— studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom. All three types of units come in the shape of modules designed with a standard width that fits into the existing structural framework of the stadium. The interchangeable modules allow for easy modification in the future. “The demography of the population is changing all the time and this system can adapt to the market’s demand. If studio flats surge in demand, then units could be converted into studio flats, and vice versa.”

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