Seoul football center pitch for pitch prowess


South Korea National Football Center Seoul- Image: Johan Cruijff Arena

The Dutch architectural firm UNStudio, in concert with the Johan Cruijff ArenA in Amsterdam (Netherlands), designed the winning blueprint for the Korean National Football Center in Seoul. The design is a kind of eulogy to the sport and past and present of Korean football. Apart from football, the plan also focuses on health, wellness, science, technology and education and promotes a robust lifestyle. The entire concept is to make certain that South Korean footballers can deliver the goods when it comes to pitch performance.

Cut above the rest

The Netherlands enjoys a successful historical relationship with South Korea in the field of football, which dates back to 2002, when the well-known Dutch national team coach Guus Hiddink spectacularly led the South Korean national team to the quarterfinals of World Cup, where it eventually occupied the fourth slot – an unprecedented achievement in the history of South Korean football.

Said Ben van Berkel, Founder and Principal Architect of UNStudio, “The Netherlands is of course a real football country, it is our national pride. We have many top players and trainers who work all over the world. As the creators of total football, football is much more than just sports to us; it is an expression of our culture, science and philosophy of life. Football brings people closer together, it gives them a sense of togetherness and it fills them with pride.”

With an indoor stadium, an outdoor stadium and a museum located around a public square, the Korean National Football Center is set to become a destination par excellence for football fans and sports fans alike.

Winning design – After working in close collaboration with industry experts, UNStudio presented a winning design earlier this year at a private international competition. Commissioned by the South Korean Football Association KFA (Korean Football Association), the avant-garde National Football Center will not only be the home of the national team and their trainers, but also the nursery for future generations of top players, who can shape their careers here.

Ben van Berkel added, “In the Netherlands we understand how important it is to start training at a young age. We invest not only a lot in our youth players, but also in the latest technology, equipment and teaching methods. They should ensure top-class football.”

Crème de la crème

For the blueprint, UNStudio brought together an international team of leading stadium managers, sports scientists and data collection experts. This team of specialists know their onions after working for celebrated football associations and stadia in Europe and the Middle East. The salient parts of the masterplan are based on the experiences of other international top clubs and training centers.

Henk Markerink, CEO of Johan Cruijff ArenA, stated, “We are grateful and feel honored to be involved in this incredibly prestigious project. As Johan Cruijff ArenA, we are proud to be able to contribute to the creation of such a prominent and iconic training complex, for a country that is progressing so technologically that it serves as an example for all of us.”

Henk Markerink, CEO, Johan Cruijff ArenA, Netherlands, is a Member of Coliseum’s Strategic Committee.

The Johan Cruijff Arena boasts 20 years of knowledge and experience in advising sports projects worldwide, such as for the World Cup host country Brazil. The stadium is internationally highly regarded as the role model for modern stadium construction and management. The stadium also serves as a ‘living lab’ for the development of innovative concepts for stadium management and events.

Quality key mantra

The new National Football Center (NFC) will sit on a 450.42 m2 site at Cheonan-shi, Chungnam-do in South Korea. As per UNStudio’s design, this is the future of Korean football, in which international presence plays a pivotal role.

The new NFC will enjoy facilities for the national men’s team as well as for the women’s team and youth teams. The training facilities for young people are aimed at establishing them as soccer giants, who will be molded by international coaches. The impetus will be on the maximum development of their physical and mental health. In addition, the complex should also become an attractive destination for football fans. Here they can enjoy (the history of) Korean football and use the facilities, so that they feel even more connected to their club.

Ben van Berkel observed, “Of course, you have supporters from different clubs, but football fans understand each other and share their love for the game. Football is an emotional roller coaster of hope, highs and lows. This applies to the millions of fans around the world, as well as to the players and other people directly involved.”

Taking advantage of the latest insights into sports science and data technology, the National Football Center will go on to become a highly professional football facility, with two stadiums and over 10 different types of sports fields, natural running tracks and indoor sports halls. These facilities have short lines of communication with numerous specialist sports physicians and treatment centers to ensure that athletes perform to the hilt.

With a luxury hotel – complete with indoor and outdoor lounge areas, a spa, sauna and a wellness center – the NFC also offers exclusive opportunities for players to totally relax before and after their workouts.

One of the pillars of the masterplan is the central public square, lodged in the center of the complex. Here, the three main elements of the design – the museum, the indoor stadium and the open air stadium – surround the public pedestrian zone with various eateries, shops and a variety of (partly) public sports facilities. Thanks to the terraced landscape, this spacious square will also host various events throughout the year.

‘Urban brand manual’

Apart for the design for the blueprint, a strong brand for the complex also had to be developed in the international competition. UNStudio designed an ‘urban brand manual’ especially for this purpose, so that the coherence between the buildings and the surrounding landscape would remain consistent throughout the design process. This manual is a guideline for the main urban and architectural elements of the masterplan. It contains an overview that specifies the different detail scales that form the basis of the design.

Holistic approach

By focusing on ‘Health, Wellness, Science and Technology’, the NFC, in tandem with its main sponsors and market leaders, will break new ground in the field of sports innovation. Thanks to this branding strategy, the commercial position of the training complex is also bolstered.

Health: Recent research points out that young athletes’ physical development improves as they are exposed to various sports activities that enhance their motor skills and reflexes. Multiple training types and conditioning methods contribute to player performance. That is why the new NFC offers more than 10 different types of sports fields, natural running tracks and indoor sports halls.

Wellness: Mental health is closely linked to the development of the body. That is why the terrain offers not only facilities where the players can relax, and soothe their frayed nerves, but also the material palette is based on these essential functions. Where possible, use was made of local, natural materials such as rough natural stone, wood and textile. There is an abundance of plant growth and verdant space, with which the terrain is seamlessly embedded in the surrounding landscape of hills and fields.

Science and Technology: The success of any sport depends on investments in the next generation of players. That is why the NFC wants to become a breeding ground for talent. Not only as training institute for the national team, but also aimed at youth teams and women’s football. Bringing together so many athletes of different levels will yield a lot of useful data that allows doctors and sports scientists to evaluate and personalize the different training programs.

With the advent of digital technology in the sports world, trainers, managers and caregivers can now closely monitor the progress and development of training programs to achieve the best results. The UNStudio team has the specific knowledge in-house with which digital technology can be subtly integrated into the built environment. This allows data to be collected on health, activity, time use, schedules and other biometric data.

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