Nanjing Sports Park: An Ongoing Success as a People’s Park for the City – Richard Breslin & Paul Henry

August 27, 2014

Populous’ Richard Breslin and Paul Henry consider what has made it work so well

As the very successful Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics draws to a close ( 28th August),  we wanted to take a look at  the evolution of China’s most successful sports precinct, a decade after it was built.

Nanjing Sports Park is made up of a number of sporting facilities including a stadium, arena, tennis, swimming, and  media centres, situated within a large parkland. It was originally built to host the 2005 China National Games, a kind of test case before the Beijing Olympics.  Now, nine years later, the centrepiece of the park, the Nanjing Olympics Sports Centre held the Opening and will host the Closing ceremony for the Youth Olympics, as well as all athletic events.  Many of the 28 events during the 12 days of competition have also been held at other venues within the Park precinct. The ongoing success of Nanjing Sports Park is a testament to a team act – consideration of legacy right from the beginning, connection with the community, and active management of the park, as my colleague Paul Henry explains.

When we first designed Nanjing Sports Park, there was, literally, nothing else around it. It was built on a green field site and the challenge was to create an iconic development that could be an integrated and harmonious part of the future development of the city, yet reflect the historic status of Nanjing as the ancient capital of China. Today, as modern high rise residential and commercial buildings continue to densify around it, the sports park has literally become the central core of a new city. It has all the elements required to achieve a critical mass, capable of sustaining independent city life – residential, commercial retail and leisure elements combined  with all the services and transport infrastructure required to make the “stadium city” thrive.

We adopted the same principle of considering legacy first after winning the original masterplan competition for the 2014 Youth Olympics. The masterplan design was intended to unite the city through green infrastructure utilising lanterns to light up the host city and be used as portals to the games. Once again the Masterplan was also designed with the long term development of the city in mind and with the Youth Olympics Games carefully positioned to inhabit the new city, rather than retrofit a legacy.

Populous_Nanjing2While all reports show an extremely well managed successful event, it’s still a little early to really determine the long term effect or influence of the Nanjing Youth Olympics.  But the legacy of the Sports Park can certainly be measured, and it is much more than the events held inside on any given day. Its real success has been how much it has been embraced by its community, and used all through the year. The Sports Park management has done a magnificent job of encouraging the community involvement over the past ten years. The sports buildings which make up the Park are grouped closely together, and 35 percent of the precinct is made up of parkland. The concept of the masterplan was the idea of creating a “People’s Place”, a dynamic destination point within the City of Nanjing. The real success is that the Park and the Precinct have become part of the fabric of the city.

It is in fact China’s most successful sports precinct. The main stadium hosts regular football games as well as major Events which are beamed and streamed around the world. The swimming centre can host more than ten thousand on a hot summer day and a popular ice skating rink was built adjacent to the main gymnastics hall for families. Other activities have also sprung up, like an outdoor beach, a golf driving range, and the manmade lake which attracts fishermen as well as picnickers. Restaurants and sport related businesses have evolved in key locations on the site.

The Nanjing Sports Park is an important model for what can be achieved post a major event because of a shared vision between the Client, designer and operations team. It is well established that many sporting facilities cannot survive on simply a few major events throughout the year. What is required is a balance between good creative design, a sound business and operations plans and disciplined building maintenance. The Sports Park design looks to the future but is timeless.  It is a design that considers the spaces between the buildings as key zones of activity as well as the buildings themselves.

The Nanjing Sports Park this week is not just a celebration of the 2014 Youth Olympics. It is a testament to design that considers legacy from the outset. Unlike many sports facilities in the region, this is a Sports Park that has thrived and grown over the first ten years of its life. It is a celebration of a working, proven viable sports leisure and entertainment destination as an important urban heart of a major city centre.

Richard Breslin Cropped 2Richard Breslin is a Senior Principal at Populous and a Director of the Asian/Pacific office headquartered in Brisbane. Richard also sits on the worldwide strategic Board of Populous. Richard is responsible for all of the firm’s projects in New Zealand and Australia.

In 1997, Richard commenced work with the team on the design of Stadium Australia (now ANZ Stadium), the main venue for the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games. At this time, he also worked on the event overlay for the Games, reviewing initial designs for Homebush Olympic Park.

Following the successful delivery of the 2000 Summer Games, Richard worked on the design of the 90,000 seat Wembley Stadium, before leading the design team for two stadia constructed in Portugal (Estadio da Luz in Lisbon and Estadio Algarve in Faro) in preparation for the UEFA Euro 2004 soccer competition.

In 2006, he was Project Leader for the design of the Soccer CIty Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He was also appointed project leader for Populous’ successful master plan for the London 2012 Olympic Park. Populous designed the main stadium for the London Olympics and was part of the Overlay team for the Olympic Park.

In 2007, Richard emigrated to New Zealand, where he led the teams on the design of the 60,000 seat Eden Park redevelopment in Auckland and the 30,000 seat Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, the first fully covered fixed roof stadium with a natural grass pitch. Both were venues for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Richard is now working on a range of projects in Australia and New Zealand, including the sports hub which is part of the blueprint for the rebuilding of Christchurch, following the earthquakes.

Richard’s isportconnect-profile-widget

PaulHenry_PopolousPaul is an internationally recognised expert in the design and master planning of stadia, racecourses, arena and the planning of Olympic Games. He is an Australian architect with worldwide success, and is based in the firm’s key office in Brisbane. Paul is a Senior Principal and sits on the global board of, Populous, as both an owner and CEO of the Asian region and he chairs the firm’s Global Strategic Committee. 

During his extensive career, Paul has led the development of world renowned sports and entertainment buildings including the design of the Sydney Olympic Stadium, Nanjing Sports Park, Taiwan Arena, and the racecourses for the Hong Kong Jockey Club as well as many other major stadia in Australia. Many of Paul’s stadium designs have become a centerpiece for a city’s development, as well as showcasing Australian skills and expertise. Governments throughout Asia have invited Paul to lead discussions on the procurement and design of sports facilities to best suit the needs of a city and its community.

Paul’s isportconnect-profile-widget

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