Fenwick Iribarren Architects stately stadia


Mark Fenwick on Coliseum Europe 2023 Image: Coliseum GSVA

When the tiny, fabulously wealthy country in the Middle East – Qatar – wanted to host the greatest soccer show on earth – the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ – it bordered on the fantastical. After all, it was a country that did not boast any soccer tradition coupled with total lack of infrastructure to host such a prestigious event.

However, history was made when the oil-gas-rich country was announced as the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ in December 2010. Soon, a frenzy of construction activities like building seven stadiums and refurbishing the eighth one began. Today, Qatar has established itself as a true power in the sport and the rest as they say is history…

Madrid (Spain)-based Fenwick Iribarren Architects played a major role in Qatar 2022. The firm conceptualized the design of three out of the seven World Cup stadia and has kind of achieved a “hat-trick”.

Mark Fenwick, Senior Partner of Fenwick Iribarren Architects, is grinning from ear to ear today. He – along with his team – was tasked with designing three Qatar 2022 stadia – and their oeuvres are something to sit up and take notice of including hogging-the-limelight Stadium 974.

Fenwick is based in Madrid for the past 32 years and his design studio has grown over the years to become one of the largest architectural practices in Spain and participates in many distinguished national and international projects.

Know the inside details of building Qatar 2022 stadia and the challenges involved with special reference to Stadium 974 straight from the horse’s mouth – Mark Fenwick, Senior Partner, Fenwick Iribarren Architects, Spain, in an exclusive interaction with ‘Coliseum’.

Qatar 2022

The 2022 FIFA World Cup™ was the 22nd FIFA World Cup™, the quadrennial world championship for national football teams organized by FIFA. It took place in Qatar from November 20th to December 18th, 2022, after the country was awarded the hosting rights in 2010.


Zürich (Switzerland)-based the Fédération internationale de football association (FIFA) is the international governing body of association football, beach soccer and futsal. It was founded in 1904 to oversee international competition among the national associations of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Qatar 2022 Stadia

  • The 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium in Lusail;
  • The 60,000-capacity Al-Bayt Stadium in Al Khor;
  • The 40,000-capacity Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah;
  • The 40,000-capacity Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan;
  • The 40,000-capacity Khalifa International Stadium in Doha;
  • The 44,667-capacity Education City Stadium in Doha;
  • The 40,000-capacity Stadium 974 in Doha; and
  • The 44,400-capacity Al Thumama Stadium in Doha.

Unlike all the other stadiums, the Khalifa International Stadium is the only one that already existed before Qatar won the bid for the World Cup.

Interesting Facts

  • It was the first World Cup with all stadiums in the same City and all stadia were joined by Metro and shuttle;
  • The second World Cup to be staged in Asia after the 2002 competition in South Korea and Japan;
  • The first World Cup to be held in the Arab and Muslim worlds;
  • For the first time, the World Cup was held during Winter as Summer is a scorcher in Qatar;
  • Qatar was the smallest host country to host the sporting extraordinaire;
  • The most expensive football World Cup ever; and
  • The shortest football World Cup to be played across 28 days since 1998.

Mark Fenwick began by saying that all the design work which was put in for the three stadia in Qatar by Fenwick Iribarren Architects was worth the toil and sweat because “everybody loved the stadia”.

Helping the design firm all along their Qatar journey was the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC).

Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC)

Established in 2011 by the State of Qatar, the Doha (Qatar)-based Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC) was responsible for the delivery of the required infrastructure and host country planning and operations for Qatar to host an amazing and historic 2022 FIFA World Cup™ which accelerated progress towards achieving national development goals and created a lasting legacy for Qatar, the Middle East, Asia, and the world.

Continued Fenwick, “It was a close-knit kind of event with all stadiums in one City (Doha). And the brand new Metro network also got up and running on time.”

Fenwick stated that it was not a cakewalk for his firm to land the three Qatar 2022 stadia and they had to take part in several design competitions. In a cut-throat competition environment, bagging the opportunity to design three stadia out of the eight was no mean achievement for Fenwick Iribarren Architects.

Stadia Hat-trick


Education City Stadium

The 44,667-capacity Education City Stadium is a football stadium which is located in Al Rayyan, Qatar, and was built as a venue in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ held in Qatar. The stadium is located within several university campuses at the Qatar Foundation’s Education City.

The mission of the Qatar Foundation has always been twofold: To provide educational opportunities and to improve quality of life for the people of Qatar and the region.

Informed Fenwick, “This was the very first stadium that was developed by us where we worked within the precinct of the University of Qatar Foundation Education City Stadium.”


  • The stadium was to become a hub for the university and due to the university factor it would carry an amazing legacy; and
  • The central challenge was cooling an open-air stadium – open to the sun, external air and wind.


Fenwick Iribarren Architects Feat

Stated Fenwick with a sense of pride, “Apart from the stadia hat-trick feat, the other achievement was that we developed the first cutting-edge cooling system in Qatar stadiums. It is the first time that stadium cooling has been done in an open-air stadium. The SC helped us and at the end of the day, the stadiums were comfortable indeed!”

He added that his firm “always like to work on stadiums that are different – out-of-the-box kind.”

Al Thumama Stadium

The 44,400-capacity Al-Thumama Stadium is a football stadium in Al Thumama, Qatar. It was a venue for the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ in Qatar. The stadium is located about 20 km South of Doha.

The stadium was designed in the form of a ‘gahfiya’, the traditional woven cap worn by men and boys across the Middle East, the white exterior standing out against the Green surroundings.

Informed Fenwick, “The idea of the ‘gahfiya’ was the source of the design of the stadium. The pattern, the way we built it and the whole idea of building it in the form of a traditional cap was actually quite elegant and the symbolism of this stadium was quite strong, especially for the Arab community and the Arab culture.”


  • To have an innate understanding of the ‘gahfiya’ symbol of the young people who are the future of the country; and
  • To design the stadium keeping the sentiments of the people in mind and designing the stadium per se was quite an intricate task which was again a huge challenge for Fenwick and his team.


Stadium 974

The 40,000-capacity Ras Abu Aboud Stadium – now the Stadium 974 – was a temporary stadium made from 974 recycled shipping containers. It was a temporary venue that hosted matches during the 2021 FIFA Arab Cup™ and the 2022 FIFA World Cup™, after which dismantlement began. It was the first temporary venue in the FIFA World Cup™ history.

Interesting Facts

  • The stadium has been constructed entirely from recycled shipping containers and modular steel;
  • It is the first demountable covered football stadium; and
  • 974 is the international dialing code for Qatar and the venue held the same number of steel containers as the Long Distance Code.

Maintained Fenwick, “The biggest legacy of Qatar 2022 was the Ras Abu Aboud Stadium – now the Stadium 974 – the first stadium dismountable and transportable.”

He shared an interesting fact, “Though the code number of Qatar was 974 we realized that the no of containers totaled to 972. So, we bought two more containers and the total came to 974. And then it all came together and a big ceremony was held putting them in as well.”

Circus Link

When Fenwick’s design firm participated in several rounds of competitions to land the hat-trick stadia, they felt that “Qatar does not need another stadium after the World Cup and the circus idea occurred to us. When a circus arrives in a City, the tents are put up, and once the circus party in a particular destination completes their show, the tents are taken down and they proceed to another town/City. On similar lines, we floated the idea that if we could actually ship a stadium in containers and take it to some other country once the event is over. The idea went down well with the SC as well as FIFA and this is how the dismountable and transportable Stadium 974 was planned and built.”

Legacy Factor

He added, “The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy gave import on the legacy factor right from the beginning when Qatar landed the hosting rights of the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ way back in December 2010. FIFA also showed strong interest on the legacy quotient. The legacy quotient is key and the idea of not having white elephants in countries once events are over. So, Stadium 974 getting dismantled sends out a strong legacy statement.”


  • The design studio faced the challenge of building the stadium in such a manner that it could be dismantled once the event extraordinaire was over;
  • A factor which worked to the favor of Fenwick Iribarren Architects is that the stadium was to come up in a portside area and in sight of Doha’s coastal Cityscape as Fenwick put in, “Luckily, we were placed in that lovely location near the portside and the entire exercise of unloading the containers became a smooth process.”;
  • The trick was to basically to design a stadium deploying minimum amount of parts – “So, we actually did a bit of a kit of parts here – a box kind where you have all the pieces in and the different containers which were then built together and which enabled us to produce a small modularity of all those different kinds of things – facilities like restrooms, concessions, VIP boxes, and prayer rooms were built out of containers.”;
  • The only stadium that did not have a cooling system in place but worked extremely well with the cross-ventilation – “In Stadium 974 the amount of light that was allowed on the pitch, the air movement that was allowed on the pitch was massive. Because of the containers, the stadium does actually breathe and very important is that the grass is sustainable. We studied the roof to allow maximum natural lighting and allowing the wind to go through the stadium on to the pitch. We would replicate whatever we did in Qatar in our future projects as better cross-ventilation boost the comfort quotient for fans.”; and
  • The cooling process inside Stadium 974 was very complicated and a huge challenge for the design studio – “There are two factors – there is a passive and an active system. The stadiums that we design one have to do so in such a manner so that a gust of wind does not come in and take the cool air out. You need to design the stadium roof in such a way so that the cold air will not be taken away and we have a low velocity around the pitch and underneath the seats. The good thing about cold air is it is much more efficient than heating a stadium which is what happens in Europe. Cooling a stadium is like filling up a swimming pool, you fill up the stadium with three meters of cold air basically the pitch. What you do is fill it up and coming off the stadium seating down on to the pitch and you just create that sort of a layer of cold air and the rest of it still remains hot. It is between the active and the passive design of the systems here.”


Color Patterns

Stadium 974 is not about riot of colors but there is much beyond as Fenwick explained, “The colors are actually intentional – the red is sky boxes, yellow – restrooms, blue – concessions, green – media and offices. So, if one looks at the façade of the building, one is looking at the use and it is not just a color design. The color occurs as the pattern happens within or the use within the stadium itself.”

Up Close

The Fenwick Iribarren Architects worked in close coordination with FIFA to produce a very close pitch design for Stadium 974 so that the spectators are “up close to the pitch action”.

Site Works

Elaborated Fenwick, “We began onsite and everything was prefabricated and built in together. The containers were literally supported on a shelf – plug-n-play – and the entire experience was very enriching indeed. The built stadium (Stadium 974) one could see from the airport, the national museum, from the restaurant nearby and it is possibly one of the most visible stadiums and it has also been one of the most visited stadiums by people coming to Qatar. People visited the stadium for its unique character – how we left room to dismantle it.”

The Legacy

Qatar utilized the FIFA 2022 tournament to not only work on developing an exceptional experience for its fans, but also to create a lasting legacy for Qatar, the Middle East, Asia, and the world. New sustainability standards were achieved with novel ideas like tournament legacy planning from recycling the materials from pre-existing demolished facilities, to modular designs, to demountable stadium. The community-focused venues followed Green Building practices in toto.

As Fenwick observed, “With Stadium 974 Qatar sent out the greatest legacy statement for stadium architecture.”

Qatar 2022 has indeed left behind a rich legacy of buildings (stadia) that are both innovative architectural creations and genuine works of art with its entire lavish engineering works.

Mark Fenwick and his team deserves special mention for creating awe-inspiring architectural marvels in the form of the above three stadia and these gleaming structures have almost no equals.

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