Call to Action

Populous’ project for the New Stadium – ‘The Cathedral’: video, pictures and words from the architect

Populous’ design for the New Milano Stadium. (

Populous have presented their project for the new Milano stadium and a new district in the San Siro area.

On Thursday there was a presentation of the two leading projects for the New Milano Stadium and one of the firms that is in the running of winning the project is Populous, who have built many of Europe’s stadiums like Emirates Stadium and the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Populous’ architect Christopher Lee was on stage yesterday at Politecnico di Milano and spoke at length about the vision of Populous for the new stadium.

“It’s a great honor to be here,” Lee said. “As an architect, I’ve spent my career specializing in designing football stadiums – not American football stadiums, not Basketball stadiums, but proper football stadiums. I’ve designed and delivered Emirates Stadium for Arsenal, the new Tottenham Stadium, four World Cup stadiums in South Africa, Russia, Brazil and now in Qatar, and designing a stadium for Milano would be for me an incredible honor, to work with two legendary clubs like Milan and Inter, it would be an enormous honor for us and for me personally.

“My practice, Populous, is an international practice, we’re based around the world, in 19 offices including Milano. We have about 700 staff, who work just on sports and entertainment projects. And in our 35-year history, we’ve designed and built 3,000 projects, and about 1300 stadiums. I think that’s important because I think designing these buildings is very complex and designing football stadiums in particular is very complex, they’re nuanced and they’re not like any other sporting buildings.

“But on to our project here, which I think is entirely about a building that’s for Milano, it’s an incredible football stadium for Milan and Inter, but it’s very much a stadium inspired by Milano, and a stadium for Milano. We’ve taken our inspiration clearly from some of the enormous, huge and important icons of Milano: the Duomo of course and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. But also what Milano has become, and becoming: a futuristic, sustainable, innovative stadium.

Populous’ design for the New Milano Stadium. (

“And what we wanted to do is marry both the incredible tradition, rich culture, amazing architecture, with a futuristic, sustainable, and forward-looking building, that very much draws its inspiration from the DNA of Milan – the Duomo itself. But also, we want it to be an icon, the existing buildings are icons, this is a building that will represent both the clubs, Milan and Inter, but also the city of Milano on a world-stage, we want it to have this uniqueness and this representation, instantly recognizable: strong architecture, a classical, elegant architecture that is both historic and deferential to the fantastic architecture of Milano, but also one that is futuristic and forward-looking.

“But very much, this is a stadium for all of us, this is a stadium for all of Milano. And the thing I love about designing these stadiums is that they are inclusive, they are for families, they are for fans, they are for everybody… And what we wanted to produce here is a building that picks up on these great traditions of Milano, that has incredible food and beverage, and we want to bring that into the football stadium, much like we’ve done in Tottenham, using incredible food markets, both for Milan and for Inter.

“But also picking up the spaces like the Galleria, these fantastic democratic spaces, spaces that anyone can come into. We produced a Galleria that is reminiscent of that, that is glass, that is light-filled, that is filled with trees, a space that everyone uses in the building, rich or poor, VIP, or general admission fans. This is where everyone mingles. This is very important, I think what I love about football is that mingling of everyone, just an incredibly democratic stadium, and that is very important.

Populous’ design for the New Milano Stadium. (

“But also it’s part of a much bigger district, and I think we have an enormous opportunity, and you’ve seen the power of sports buildings around the world to regenerate areas from East London where we did the Olympic Stadium which never would’ve become the Queen Elizabeth Park without things like the London Olympics, and I think we have an opportunity here to create an incredible Master Plan, that has 22 hectares of green, urban part for everyone of Milano, that surrounds the building, has a beating heart, a place where we have food and beverage and office spaces that will employ about 3,500 people, incredibly sustainable, low-rise – we’ve deliberately sunk the size of the buildings on the Northern side so it’s much lower, we’ve moved the stadium away from Via Tesio so the stadium is a good neighbor and a respectful neighbor. We are working with fantastically-qualified acousticians, and in fact we’re now working so that this stadium will make less noise to the local community than the existing San Siro, in its new location – both in football and in concerts.

Populous’ design for the New Milano Stadium. (

“So to produce a place that is for everyone that will regenerate the San Siro district, that is alive all the time, an urban park where we can run, or cycle, of just sit on the park bench, a space where we have bars, we have restaurants, that everyone can come and be a part of it in the new San Siro district, takes us forward into the future.

“We also clearly want to respect the traditions of the existing San Siro, so what we’ve done is design a museum which sits on the exact pitch, the center spot is marked by an entrance in a glass elevator which would take you down to it, and then a walk of legends at the flank of either side of you: every player who’s played at San Siro – his name is there and you can go and visit them at the memorial.

Populous’ design for the New Milano Stadium. (

“Sustainability is incredibly important in stadiums, this will be the most sustainable stadium in Europe. As a practice, we’ve been designing sustainable stadiums way back to the Sydney Olympics, which was the greenest Olympics back in 2000. We’re looking at solar cells on the roof to collect electricity and store them in battery banks, we’ll collect the rain from the roof and the podiums to reuse for flushing of toilets, we’re using natural ventilation to cool and heat that Galleria space, so we’re not pumping air condition to everywhere, and we’re using a broader heating and cooling system which allows the entire district to be heat and cool from a central location, which is incredibly efficient.

“But also we’re creating an authentic building, I think authenticity is a really important word for us here: so how do you create a building and an architecture that is authentic, both to the city of Milano and the two clubs that play there. A building which feels when Milan are playing, it looks different, it’s red, the fires are coming up from beneath, the vertical emphasize… and when Inter are playing the blue serpent is moving its way around the building. And when it’s not, it’s there for the city of Milano – it’s the white, and crisp cathedral for everybody.

Populous’ design for the New Milano Stadium. (

“So here we are looking at how Milan will look, the red is highlighted, we’re using a kinetic sculpture in the corner to be able to bring in the club’s badges or iconography and when Inter are playing, the blue serpent will develop around the building. So the architectonics of the building change not just with LED’s which are red or blue, like the Allianz Arena, we want the building to feel different when the clubs are playing, and then different again when they’re not playing and then this is our stadium, a stadium for all Milanese.

“But important then is the incredible atmosphere. There will be an incredible atmosphere and this is the nuance of designing a football stadium, so we are looking at 60-65k capacity, incredibly tight, incredible close, and incredible atmosphere. Our acousticians, who have worked on many of our previous arena projects and most recently on Tottenham, were also U2 sound engineers, and they’ve worked with us to design the stadium much the same way you’d design a concert arena, so the noise is loud, the atmosphere is incredible, the noise and the chants last longer, they don’t break up – so you get this incredible atmosphere, this incredible proximity to the pitch, whether you’re in the Curva Sud or the Curva Nord, or the east and west ends.

Populous’ design for the New Milano Stadium. (

“A little bit of technical bits: the current San Siro has a brilliant atmosphere, it has many weaknesses as a stadium but the atmosphere is great. This stadium will be almost 10 meters closer to the field than the existing stadium, and that’s 65,000 people moving 10 meters closer to the pitch, this wall of people which will be phenomenal for our players and for our spectators.

“And if we look at other projects, like the Roma Stadium, we’re about 6.3-6.5 meters closer – incredibly tight and close. And even Tottenham Stadium, which is the tightest in Europe at the moment, we are very much the same at the front because we literally cannot move the stands any closer, we’d have no pitch… but we’re about 2.5 meters, 18%, closer on the two end stands, the two home stands – the Curva Sud and the Curva Nord. This will be an incredible atmosphere, an incredible wall of people.

Populous’ design for the New Milano Stadium. (

“But we’re going to create a building that has longevity, is classic that will last for generations that will be instantly recognizable. This isn’t a stadium that could be in Manchester or Moscow, this is a stadium very much for Milano, and very much of Milano.

“And this very much is where our project is, to create an icon for the city, for future generations, that the minute you see this behind on television or in the newspaper, wherever you are in the world, you recognize that building and that is Milano and that is the new stadium for Milano.”

Populous’ design for the New Milano Stadium. (

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *