Design and 3D Model courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

Zaha Hadid Architects gives fans what they want with real-time stadium design

To sports fans, a stadium is a shrine: a place where the like-minded meet to cheer, chat, and get lost in the collective rush of 60,000 people watching as one. 

As you can imagine, this feeling doesn’t happen by chance. It’s cultivated by the stadium’s design and how different choices enhance the game and interaction points for anyone who ventures inside. From the exterior to what you can see from your seat, everything is considered. And it needs to be when a project is this complex!

Recently, Zaha Hadid Architects tamed that complexity with Unreal Engine, using a familiar favorite, to design and visualize the upcoming Xi’an International Football Center (XIFC), which will make its debut in 2023 as host of the biggest soccer tournament in Asia—the AFC Asian Cup.

As reported by The B1M, this massive commercial real estate (CRE) facility is unlike most stadiums in that it blends traditional Chinese architecture with a futuristic parametric design that’s not just striking, but space age. It’s also part of a larger strategy to create fan-centric, multi-use facilities that don’t just cater to sports, or get instantly forgotten after a single megaevent.
The XIFC is also making a major contribution to building next-generation public infrastructure in China’s western region, specifically the XiXian New Area, which includes five new cities that will act as a model for innovative urban development. But big goals also require good plans. Longevity must be designed for, especially when fan enjoyment is what ultimately keeps people coming back or telling others to visit a new epicenter of sports and entertainment.

By using digital tools like Unreal Engine, Zaha Hadid Architects could create an ultrarealistic, real-time model of the stadium, giving stakeholders instant insight into how every part of the design operates. Unlike a static render or animation that purposefully limits your view, real-time visualizations can be explored from any angle or vantage point. This is especially helpful when you are trying to create a fan experience that makes every seat “a good one.” 
Design and 3D Model courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects
To do this, the team performed a sightline analysis in Unreal Engine. With real-time access to the full 3D model, they could easily calculate the pitch aspect ratio for every seat in the stadium, validating design choices before construction.
Design and 3D Model courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects
Another concern was the climate. Xi’an’s summers are hot, so a happy fan is likely going to be a cooler one in most cases. You can see this desire built into the sweeping lines of the stadium’s facade, which are designed to protect the building from northern winds. The roof design targets the heat, and is made up of a tensioned cable-net, topped with a translucent membrane that extends over the seating area. Meanwhile, the clear overhang protects fans from rain, direct sunlight, and more, without robbing them of the natural light that brings a bit of beauty to an event. 
Design and 3D Model courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects
Again, each element was visualized in engine, so the team could not only help stakeholders determine if the design was right, but include all the detail needed for a project of this scale.

Now months into construction, the project is shaping up to be another feather in China’s sports cap, and their fifth stadium in recent years. Is the World Cup in their future? Who’s to say? But whatever happens, the fans are definitely getting a home worthy of their enthusiasm. Stay tuned!
Design and 3D Model courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

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