The fact that this stadium, inaugurated in September 2017, was chosen to host the final of the Champions League wasn’t only because of its technological advances, seating capacity, or accessibility facilities.
Since the Community of Madrid approved the notion to build a new athletics stadium in 1988 at a location far from downtown, a series of circumstances have made the stadium a brand both iconic and unique, an inseparable part of Spain and Madrid’s identity to the rest of the world.
On June 1, the day of the Champions League final, this icon of a stadium made its debut before hundreds of millions of spectators around the world. For communication professionals, it is worth asking: How is it possible to achieve such a massive impact in such a short time?
In general, iconic buildings which form part of the identity of their home cities – the Notre Dame in Paris, the Big Ben in London, the Empire State Building in New York – have only consolidated their icon status after dozens, even hundreds of years.
Many architecture studios understand this and design their building projects with the foresight, regardless of the circumstances, to create and incorporate symbols that will in the future be universally recognized as icons of the city. It’s a way to associate the architecture studio’s own brand with that of the city.
However, reality shows that it doesn’t usually happen that way. There exists a widespread urban legend which stipulates that great architectural works begin with a simple drawing of a sketch on a paper napkin reflecting the original creative and exceptional idea. Wanda Metropolitano’s architects never thought in this manner.
Because getting the general public to intuitively associate a construction project from an architecture studio with the city’s greater image is a daunting task, requiring endless hours of conscientious and diligent work. A task for which, to obtain results, requires sacrificing many ideas that were once drawn on napkins.
For Cruz and Ortiz Architects, each assignment is a unique opportunity. Aspects such as the building type, scale of building to design, budget, country, city or location, among others. are taken into account. All of these are analyzed when starting a design. The most prominent example is the AVE Santa Justa station project in Seville, another of Cruz and Ortiz Architects’ work. This was, in fact, a structure that combined the functional, the innovative and the distinctive. Therefore, there is no textbook method of constructing buildings to attain icon status, the belief of which has given rise to construction projects that on so many occasions end without success.
The Wanda Metropolitano is another example, in which the combination of qualities such as efficiency, innovation, creativity and functionality did actually succeed in creating a truly iconic landmark. In this case, in a very short time.
The Origins: La Peineta
When in 1994 the athletics stadium was inaugurated for the city and community of Madrid, the building was appropriated the nickname La Peineta (the hair comb) for the mere resemblance of its single side tier at a glance with this feminine adornment. What could have been rather “sardonic” at first, in time became its main brand quality in a much more affectionate way, a name close to the heart for the people of Madrid.
Because no stadium in the world had a tier with such a characteristic. Moreover, situated at quite a long distance from Madrid’s city center in a secluded and lonely area, its profile is visible from many miles away.
Madrid’s three time failure in its Olympic candidature (2012, 2016 and 2020) had, however paradoxical, a beneficial effect. It managed to attract the attention of public institutions, citizens, companies, national and international media, about a facility that was intended to be the heart of the Olympic Games in Madrid.
Changes and Enhancements
To overcome this challenge, Cruz and Ortiz Architects made a new design for the “hair comb”, which considered converting a stadium of just 19,000 spectators into one with a capacity of 75,000. Inherent was an important advantage: the base structure was already there, the stadium only needing to be expanded with new grandstands, and adapted to the urban design of the area consistent with the new demands.
Once the Olympic Games were out of the picture, the football club Atlético de Madrid set its crosshairs on the “hair comb” as its future headquarters, taking into account the limitations of the Vicente Calderón stadium in terms of location and age. The club wanted a new stadium that was consistent with its growth in athletic prominence and economic terms.
Atlético wanted reap many of the advantages the new building would offer. For example, in terms of accessibility, its proximity to the M40 highway and the airport, as well as its new direct access to the Metro network. Other aspects includeded visibility, its iconic image and the lower population density in its neighborhood compared to others in Madrid, which supposedly lowered land costs, among other things.
Therefore, Atlético decided to acquire the property, coming to an agreement with the city of Madrid on the necessary changes in the Urban Development Plan. They comissioned Cruz and Ortiz Architects with the design and construction of the new stadium that would meet the stipulated objectives and fall in line with UEFA’s requirements to host European and world-class competitions.
It’s also a multi-purpose facility, with which to generate additional income streams and increase revenues, through both sports competitions as well as business and commercial activities, cultural events and more. It’s building to be utilized 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
A Unique Stadium
The successful combination of all these factors earned Wanda Metropolitano the opportunity to host the Champions League final, generating resounding excitement for Madrid and Spain from a new icon that symbolized this city and country for the rest of the world. Because in football, there are billions of people who follow with everything that happens around them with heartfelt passion.
The “end product” that Cruz y Ortiz Arquitectos, Madrid institutions, and Atlético de Madrid have managed to position in the world of football in 18 months has qualities that undoubtedly make it different. Its capacity of almost 68,000 spectators, more than 4,200 parking spaces, 142,000 square meters of land area and most importantly a cost of merely 200 million euros, half of what is normal for projects of this magnitude.
The innovative sunshade has been made with resistant and flexible materials such as teflon and is designed in such a way that tension and compression forces are balanced, eliminating additional structures – and costs – for its support. Its flaming wave shape, designed as such for the need to cover the original grandstand and the new grandstands with a harmonious design, is the differentiating touch that gives the stadium its iconic image.
The Wanda Metropolitano is, therefore, an inspiring example for business communication professionals, as we seek to position our clients’ brands as leaders in their sectors with distinctive qualities and competitive advantages.
Director of Financial Communication at Proa Comunicación