The Greenest, Coolest Stadium: Toyo Ito On His Sun-Powered Stunner


Exclusive: The Architect Behind the Solar-Powered Stadium
As if the U.S. wasn't going to look bad enough at this month's World Games, with sports like tug of war, netball , orienteering and Latin dance: the host city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, will be debuting its new stadium -- the world's first to draw most of its energy from the sun.

Almost every inch of the stadium's dragon-scale roof is covered by 8,844 solar panels, providing 1.14 gigawatt hours of electricity every year while turning the page on solar architecture, as Lloyd noted in May. But, as the designer, Japanese master Toyo Ito, explained to TreeHugger, the stadium has other, perhaps greater ecological implications too.Solar-Powered Kaohsiung Stadium Incorporates Open Design

"The interior space of a stadium is generally closed and isolated from its surroundings," said the sprightly 68-year-old architect. Ito doesn't mention the Beijing "Bird's Nest", by Herzog and de Meuron, which featured an open thatch shell that attempted to reckon with the design of closed stadiums, but could not escape a sense of isolation.

"I've been thinking about how to form a relationship which connects these spaces," he said by email. "This is a question concerning the boundary of inside and outside, which I always have in mind when designing other public buildings like concert halls and libraries."
 

Ito's design is a stark attempt at undoing the logic of open-and-closed. The roof -- a spectacular web of 32 spiraling steel pipes set atop a primary skeleton of concrete ribs -- unfurls on one of the stadium's short ends, where two extensions curl outwards. This touch makes the stadium look like a "C" from above, and opens the building to visitors and to a surrounding 16 acre park, in a glorious, organic gesture.

In this way, Ito has partly addressed one of the biggest headaches of large Olympic-style stadiums: their transformation into white elephants after the big event leaves town.

Solar-Powered Stadium Will Act as Sustainable Public Space

By dissolving the boundaries between inside and outside, the stadium creates a dynamic space that not only fades the line between spectator and athlete, but proposes the stadium as a sustainable public space long after the Games are over.

"Since the site is a public park for the citizens to use freely, I have given special consideration to creating a sense of unity within the park," Ito said.

Computer-aided parametric design also helped Ito conquer a frequent hurdle facing large stadium designers -- how to bring spectators closer to the action. Though it holds 40,000 seats, spectators are meant to feel closer to center field than would be common in traditional stadium designs.

Details on the Solar Roof of Kaohsiung Stadium on Page 2

Tags: Japan | Renewable Energy | Taiwan