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Stadium 974—The Quirky, Innovative, Now Vanishing Takeaway From Qatar


From above, World Cup stadiums in Qatar resemble colossal pots, seashells, or even large-scale stretches of human muscle (see Al Janoub). As striking as they are, their appearance is hardly surprising when you consider the wealth and wackiness turbo-charging a Gulf nation’s bid to deliver a tournament like no other—something bordering on futuristic.

As such, they are out of sync with Stadium 974. Perhaps by accident, the soccer hub named in part after its country’s dialing code has become the hipster venue at this World Cup. It’s also disappearing, being dismantled like a tent following its final game, before perhaps reappearing again somewhere, someday.

To say it’s a throwback sounds correct if compared to the alternatives. But that’s not the right word. True, Stadium 974 is, or was, not the most modern-looking in Qatar. The most innovative? Yes. The most forward-thinking? Well, possibly.

Its title, and the fact its structure is, at heart, an assembly of recycled shipping containers, is a start. Some reports say construction comprised exactly 974 containers, too. In this sense, it’s already iconic, unlike other new-builds or historical grounds.

The fact it could be reborn at a future World Cup or Olympic Games is the most eye-catching. In years to come, fans and media personnel may recall their visits to 974, trying to remember whether it was a group stage game in the Middle East or one in another continent altogether. There are some rumors it will next pop up in Uruguay or somewhere in Africa—closer to Qatar. This feature implies it could periodically bolster other countries’ leisure infrastructure from here on in.

Given the skepticism towards both FIFA and Qatar’s public relations at this World Cup—from desperately encouraging guests to focus on the games to assurances this will turn out to be a carbon-neutral event—it’s hard to say just how positive this stadium is. Of course, it’s a fragment from the occasion—one where stadium-building has cost dollars and lives—but this sets a different blueprint.

In terms of material and financial longevity, being able to set up and dismantle a reusable stadium is quite attractive, minus the logistics and cost of transporting its parts long distances, which is a potential challenge. And while it may have taken many months to build, the idea could catch on if architects can envisage a straightforward design to be packed up and reconstructed easily. Based in Spain, studio designer Fenwick Arribaren Architects was behind the thinking.

Qatar has supposedly spent under €9.5 billion ($10 million) on its World Cup stadiums, a fraction of the tournament’s overall cost but still not far off the entire amount Russia spent in 2018. From the eight venues, Stadium 974 would not have been that expensive when contrasted with arenas like the Lusail Stadium—part of a broader local redevelopment—and set to host the final.

Considering the relatively short time frame for a World Cup and concerns about what purposes these constructions will have beyond December 18, Stadium 974 offers something unique and with longer-term value. It will be interesting to see if future stadiums follow the same model.

Its final match involved Brazil blowing away South Korea 4-1 in the first knockout round, the first glimpse of the Seleção’s best in this competition. Previously, its most entertaining contests included 3-2 victories for Portugal and Switzerland against Ghana and Serbia, respectively. It was a brief cameo, but it could live on in another way.

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