Tag Archives: sport

Full-court press


Maker Stuart Blower describes the experience of designing a second-place competition entry for FC Barcelona’s Nou Palau Blaugrana and how we can apply it to world-class stadia everywhere.


A new arena for Barcelona

In 2016 Make came second in a global competition to design the Nou Palau Blaugrana, a new multi-purpose indoor arena for FC Barcelona, one of the world’s great sports clubs. Best known for its supreme footballing prowess, FCB also has European Championship-winning teams in basketball, handball and ice hockey, all of which currently play in the badly outdated Palau Blaugrana, the smaller sibling of the 100,000-plus-seat Camp Nou football stadium.

Nou Palau Blaugrana

Building upon our experience designing the Copper Box – the popular handball arena for the London 2012 Olympics – as well as our masterplan for the new Tottenham Hotspur FC stadium, Make led a team to produce a design that sets a new industry standard for multi-purpose venues around the world.

The brief called for a 12,500-seat indoor sports and entertainment venue that could host a variety of sports and concerts year-round and provide additional training and performance facilities alongside the main arena. Working closely with MANICA Architecture from Kansas City and BCQ Arquitectura from Barcelona, we produced a bespoke solution that’s both state-of-the-art and cost-effective. The flexible design – a visually strong orthogonal form  – balances the key drivers of functionality, value for money and placemaking, creating a robust standalone identity for the Palau.

Copper Box

Tottenham Hotspur masterplan

The all-important bowl

The seating bowl is key to the success of a venue like this. It needs to offer spectators maximum comfort and provide an immersive, exhilarating visual and auditory experience. Since the atmosphere of a Barcelona basketball game can easily be as intense as that of the football matches next door, intimacy and flexibility were vital considerations in our design.

Together with David Manica and his team – brought on as technical designers for the bowl and its functional layout – we created a unique 270-degree configuration that meets the strictest federation requirements for basketball, handball, futsal and ice hockey. The horseshoe arrangement of suites and upper-deck seating ensures maximum seating and revenue generation for end-stage concerts, and creates a spectacular viewing experience from every seat in the house. All sightlines meet the minimum requirements of C=90mm throughout, though the compactness and intimacy of the design means many viewing angles actually exceed these requirements.

The orthogonal form offers excellent acoustics and state-of-the-art sound control for all modes of entertainment, from European Cup basketball games to classical concerts. We pushed the efficiency of the volume, using a flat-trussed roof structure to provide maximum acoustic quality and flexibility in lighting control. We also produced an upper and lower tier design, separated by a VIP level, which allows the upper tier to be easily curtained off. This enables the bowl to work for full and partially full events alike without losing that all-important atmosphere.

A major benefit of our orthogonal design is the reduced construction costs and programme, compared to more complex forms. It minimises wasted internal space, holds the facade as close to the bowl as possible and features four carefully tuned elevations as a result.

A focus on people and placemaking

The venue is designed as a good neighbour and has quality placemaking at its heart. The principal elevation responds directly to Espai Barça (the forthcoming remodelled Barça campus), marking the main entrance to the Palau and extending the public realm right up to the front door. Visitors are greeted by an animated facade that reflects activity inside and out, adding to the great sense of arrival.

Concourses blur the boundary between internal and external, with some concessions pulled outwards to get the bowl as tight as possible to the field of play, animating the exterior and providing additional revenue streams all year round.

Our design welcomes, energises, feeds and entertains spectators and players alike. It offers the best-possible environment for fans to support their team and display their allegiance, ensuring they’ll return time and again to this wholly community-owned club. A full venue is a successful venue and, therefore, a sustainable one.

FC Barcelona campus

Creating a successful sports arena

To be successful, venues like this need their own character – a unique feel, both internally and externally, that differentiates them from others and creates a sense of belonging among spectators. As designers, it’s up to us to study the habits and rituals fans engage in before, during and after a match. Where, when and how do they gather? What features can we provide to enable and enhance this? Paving the way for an unforgettable visitor experience was a key consideration for us. The Nou Palau needs to be its own building and brand, not simply a mini-Camp Nou.

Today’s spectator experience is so much more than a hot dog and soda (though that’s still on offer); it’s approaching a VIP offering. Getting close to the action now extends beyond simple glimpses of the athletes to include exclusive views of and even interaction with teams as they arrive and leave the pitch. Our Palau design introduces a ‘dine-and-view’ restaurant with table service, overlooking the field of play, as well as VIP suites with direct access to courtside seats. It’s all about providing a live experience that beats watching the match at home on TV. This is the future of sports matches and a crucial way to retain fans.

We should also be aware of how new technologies are enhancing the spectator experience at multi-entertainment venues. With smart devices, spectators can instantly upgrade their seats, change viewing angles, watch replays, order food and drink, and listen to referee commentary and TV analysis. These offerings will only continue to improve in the future.

And then there’s the athletes’ experience, which is integral to a sports venue’s success. Players need state-of-the-art training and warm-up facilities and a secure, well-organised environment that supports pre-game preparation. The offer should be premium but relaxed. Ideally, venues should inspire the home team to win and intimidate the away team.

A legacy that lives on

Creating a legacy venue depends on a number of factors, the most important of which is financial sustainability. That means being open every day of the year, whether there’s an event or not, and offering more than just sports and concerts – essentially, being a leisure destination in its own right. Just look at The O2 in London, which alongside its sporting and music arena has a cinema, a bowling alley, clubs, restaurants and bars, and is busy year-round.

Flexibility is a key part of being financially sustainable. Make’s design for the Copper Box, for instance, placed maximum emphasis on the post-Games legacy. The venue’s ability to host multiple events – from sports to concerts to conferences – enables the arena to maintain a profitable life years later. This layering of uses is inherent in our Nou Palau design, which includes outward-facing retail units with external access around the building that benefit from Barcelona’s Mediterranean climate, support the venue during events, animate the public realm at other times and provide those valuable additional revenue streams. The design also features a community football pitch on the flat roof that can accommodate major sponsorship opportunities.

Inside the Copper Box

We’ve got our game face on

While we didn’t win this high-profile competition, the experience has been unbeatable and stands us in great stead for our next sports venue design. We firmly believe our design is as good as any other around the globe recently built, offering a world-class entertainment experience, the very best in placemaking and a magnificent new home for FC Barcelona.

Article extracted from Make Annual 13.

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Make Models: FC Barcelona

Client FC Barcelona
Scale 1:200
Dimensions 700mm(l) x 500mm(w) x 300mm(h)
Time to make 1 week
Materials Clear filament and white selective laser sintering (SLS)
Model makers Paul Miles and Petre Craciun from Make, and Digits2Widgets

The project
In 2016 Make came second in a hotly contested international competition to design the Nou Palau Blaugrana stadium for FC Barcelona. In partnership with Baena Casamor Arquitectes BCQ and MANICA Architecture, we designed a 12,500-seat sports and entertainment destination as part of a wider masterplan.

The model
The model was built as part of our pitch for the project. Split down the middle, the sectional model comprises a white 3D-printed SLS element to show the exterior, and a clear 3D-printed filament section to show the orthogonal stadium, seating and interior.

The floorplates were laser-cut, and the tiered seating was 3D-printed with clear filament to show the viewer what’s going on inside the stadium.

Changeable plates show the different uses of the space in the proposed arena, from hosting basketball and hockey matches to putting on rock concerts.

Removable plate

Each level of the model interlocks around the columns and cores, bringing stability to the structure, and the model sits on a black acrylic base.

Eyes on the prize
We’re immensely proud to have delivered a world-class venue design for a world-class club. The stadium sets new industry standards for arenas around the world; it’s a compact, flexible, functional and highly efficient design that fits within the wider scheme and is rooted in the history of FC Barcelona.


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Harold on Tour

Make’s Cycle to MIPIM team had been looking for ways to raise money for children’s charity Coram, the official charity of the ride, and was thinking of producing and selling 3D-printed cartoon figurines to be mounted on cycle handlebars. After discussions with Coram and event organisers Club Peloton, though, it was decided that we would instead print figurines of Coram’s puppet mascot, Harold the Giraffe, and give one to each ride captain to display on their handlebars during the ride. It would be a perfect opportunity to help Coram increase its visibility during the event.

After deciding on Harold’s dimensions, we worked with specialty 3D printing shop iMakr on computer-modelling the geometry. The first five prototypes, printed in-house at Make, were successfully tested on a training ride to Brighton, after which we did the next 20 for the ride captains – plus one for a Coram trustee who’d specially requested one. With each Harold taking one hour to hand-paint, we were lucky to have a number of volunteers help bring him to life.

170223_giraffe-painting_mf-33 170223_giraffe-painting_mf-47 170223_giraffe-painting_mf-68

The Harolds will be presented to Coram before the riders depart on 9 March, at which point each Harold will be proudly displayed on the ride captains’ handlebars for the duration of the 6-day, 1,000-mile ride to Cannes. Riders and supporters can chart and follow his journey using the hashtag #HaroldOnTour.

Coram is an incredible charity, so we at Make, along with our friends at Club Peloton, are thrilled to be able to help them like this. We encourage everyone to get involved and help make Harold famous!


Follow the action on Twitter:


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Rolled Gold

To the uninitiated, it looks like six football goalkeepers playing a vicious game of ten-pin bowling… all blindfolded, and in complete silence.

This is the Paralympic sport of goalball, one of 20 sports on offer at the London Paralympics.


The rules of the sport are simple: two teams of three position themselves either end of an 18-metre court, all wearing blackout masks so that the partially sighted have no advantage.

One player then hurls the ball along the floor as hard as possible towards the goal of the opposing team, all of whom dive across the floor in an effort to block it. Two bells inside the ball alert them to its trajectory, which explains the silence during play.

Either a goal is scored or the defenders trap the ball, after which play switches ends and defenders become attackers. Often, the ball-thrower will spin round, like a hammer thrower, before unleashing the ball at speeds up to 60mph towards the opposite goal.

Goalball was first invented in 1946 as part of an effort to rehabilitate blinded veterans from the Second World War. Introduced to the Paralympics in 1976, it has been growing in popularity ever since, and is now played in over 100 nations worldwide. At the Beijing Paralympics, China took gold in the men’s event, while USA took gold in the women’s.


At the London Paralympics, the British home teams were looking to make their mark on the sport. One of the top players in the women’s team is Jessica Luke. She says the conditions in the Handball Arena are perfect. “There are really good acoustics. And there’s a real atmosphere to it.”

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Just a game?

Celebrated, marketed and sold around the world for its unpredictable excitement, England’s Premier League is, like most, a conservative organisation resistant to change. Right now, though, for perhaps the first time in its existence, its ruthless ascendancy is being challenged by forces outside of its control.


Based in England, it is now in essence an international business. Its top six clubs are all foreign-owned: Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal by Americans, Chelsea by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, Manchester City by UAE politician Sheikh Mansour, and Tottenham Hotspur by the Bahama-based British businessman Joe Lewis.


The personal funding of all these proprietors has manifestly increased the power of their clubs. However, unrestricted spending – the engine that has driven their businesses – will soon be prevented by new legislation from European football’s governing body, UEFA.

Broadcasting rights – key to the riches that the Premier League distributes – look set to change, too. BSkyB could soon face serious competition from the likes of Google or Apple, for example.

Currently the league operates a collective bargaining agreement that distributes the fees between its member clubs. But it’s possible the top clubs might eventually negotiate these fees individually.

Who knows? We may even see a Premier League Mark II for smaller clubs currently striving for membership. Or even a wider European Super League.

And what of the people at the sharp end? The fans who pay for tickets and TV subscriptions? “All soccer fans know in their hearts that the changes since the 1980s have gone too far in one direction and that it’s all money-related,” says Derek Hammond, author of Got, Not Got, a book about soccer nostalgia. “It has affected the whole greater soccer culture.”

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Football4 Football3

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Judo’s big fight

In one corner are the judo purists, desperate to keep their sport loyal to its traditional Japanese origins.

In the other are the modernisers who know that, if judo doesn’t appeal to a wider fan base, it will gradually die out.

Trying to reconcile the two is Romanian-born businessman Marius Vizer who took over the International Judo Federation (IJF) in 2007, and has been trying to drag his sport into the 21st century ever since.

Before his arrival, the popularity of judo in its biggest market – Japan – had been waning. In France, its secondary market, it wasn’t a widely viewed or appreciated activity.

Dartford Judo Club Dartford Judo Club Dartford Judo Club

So Vizer fearlessly decided to push through an ambitious publicity plan. As well as simplifying the scoring system, he banned moves such as leg-grabs, dropping and sacrificial techniques popular in wrestling – a style dominated by Russians, Iranians and Caucasian countries. Since this ban, pure, classical judo has been allowed to flourish once again, and the Japanese, who invented the sport, are enjoying new-found success.

It has made for more spectacular and attacking judo, something that has pleased television executives. According to Nicolas Messner, at the IJF, more fights now end in a move called ippon, the equivalent of a boxing knockout. “The Japanese have benefitted as they can do their style of judo again,” he says. “Techniques that had disappeared have reappeared.”

Both the modernisers and the traditionalists seem to be content. Vizer may just have managed to find a happy medium.

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Dartford Dojo

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Hand-to-Hand Combat

Every once in a while the Olympic Games give fans the chance to see an incredible team in total domination. Remember the 1992 US basketball dream team, with Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson? Or the 1980 US ice hockey team which managed, against all the odds, to upset the mighty Soviets?

This time round, in London, it’s the sport of handball which featured a dominant dream team. French men’s handball, to be precise.

‘Les Experts’, as they’re known back home, are arguably the greatest handball team of all time: gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008; world champions in 2009 and 2011; European champions in 2010. No other handball team in history has triumphed in so many world-class tournaments.

Competing in the Make-designed Copper Box, in London’s Olympic Park, they were the favourites to take the gold medal again this time round.


But how does one explain the total world dominance of the French men? For the last 20 years their defensive play has been outstanding, a constant thorn in the side for teams that challenge them. With three strong players at the back, the team creates a wall that attackers struggle to breach. The final line of defence is goalkeeper Thierry Omeyer, considered the world’s best for his position.

Consistency has played its part in France’s success, too. Most sports have a regular turnover of coaches. Not French handball, however. This men’s team has known only two coaches in the past 25 years, something which has helped foster long-term strategy and player development.

Now that Les Experts have won gold once again in London, France will see thousands of skilled youngsters striving for a place in the national squad. There are now more than 400,000 players licensed to the French handball federation. That number’s sure to grow.

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