Real and Imaginary Variables

Designer: Weishun Xu, Zunheng Lai, Tim Zeitler
Critic: George Legendre
Year: 2014
Location: London, UK
Project Type: Stadium


Project Brief

     The overall goal of the design is to create a community-friendly stadium that conforms itself to the height and scale of the neighborhood, while formally expressing the ambition of a newly purchased soccer team, the Queens Park Rangers. The duality of community integration versus geometry autonomy challenges us to create a set of dialogues between the interior bowl (seating) of the stadium and the envelope, which was mathematically controlled to ensure proper scales and feasibility.

Finding the right form is merely the starting point of the project. The project development was curated under the scheme of Real and Imaginary Variables, where the interpretation of parametric geometries relies on the direct translation of indices which compose only surfaces without depth.

What differentiates our particular process from projects formally alike is that post-rationalization of the architecture has been intentionally repressed. Rather than an “architecturalization” of a superficial geometry which would necessarily bear meaning and iconicity diverging from the abstract mathematical forms, our process focused on a development process of the indices through modeling tectonics. In other words, the advancement of the project was made through studying the tectonic possibilities of each index, rather than a holistic, imagery reading of the geometry.

On contrary to many projects that treat the formal result of digital modeling as a 3D object to be translated, with our methodology, a rigorous digital drafting process for each radial section was developed to break down the generated form in order to call for more rigorous thinking of the constructability, spatial sequence and programmatic organization of architecture. The end product of the studio – a model and all the potential imaginary spaces associated with it, is something placed between a drawing and an architectural creation.

Dialectics in Controlling Form

     The form is controlled algorithmically with non-linear formula for a prototypical stadium, which is broken down into inter-related components. It is important to recognize the internal tension in formal expression of components and their interdependence, as well as the overall control of the geometry and detailing with the same sets of formula.


Site Synthesis

     The geometrical nature of a soccer stadium composition lies in the revolving and continuous programs synthesized by the pitch. Thus, a radial system computation is set up to measure the geometric performance of each angle corresponding to its immediate urban context, in an attempt to embed the stadium in the neighborhood which complex density conditions and varied programs. The final form is a half-buried geometry with extended podium to mitigate height and visibility with the surroundings.

Site Model

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     Generation of the initial geometry incorporates monitoring of projected drawings of each component as well as the relationships among the mutual changes. The shifting patterns of isolated as well as grouped parameters are recorded to find typological “geometric seeds” for further interpretation and implementation. Critical boundaries and contours are mapped in order to monitor performance.

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Seed 1

Variation Selection and Implementation

     The rough geometries are first generated to test the extremes of formal expression with each component, and then gradually synthesized with isolated parameter control and careful identification of implied design goals behind each form. The selected prototypical geometry, because of its periodic nature in form generation, is strictly symmetrical. A series of hacking equations are then introduced to apply control of the details in response to the context. An automatic drafting process is used to monitor the planar performance and mutation of each section, so that the overall form is contextually friendly and tectonically feasible.

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Programming the Geometry

     The changing form in the Z direction challenges traditional stadium layout because of the irregular size change of the floor plates. However, this also opens up opportunities to engage urban programs in the context because of the shifting density, Thus, concourses at each level is carefully examined for their programmatic capacity, as well as their relationship to the podium which connects to the surrounding buildings.


Planning the Circulation

     Vertical: With uneven density changing with height, setting up vertical circulation is challenging because of the limited floor plates. A two-story double concourse at the podium level is deviced as a solution to allow for maximized horizontal flows, re-distribution the majority of spectators with diverse programs such as retail and exhibition.


Horizontal: The revolving geometry is connected and broken down by external connections to urban conditions. An exterior concourse extenstion with landscape and over-sized steps is set up by the podium in order to complete the transition from nearby boulevards to the immediately visible seating area at the entrance.

Horizontal Circulation

Circulation Embodiment in Urban Context: The half-buried geometry allows for controlled procession to the stadium without visual discontinuity. Extended podium connects two proposed new subway stations, while leaving the back side of the stadium approachable through charters and other vehicles only for teams and game staff.


Making Seats Visible

     One major design intention is to break the prototypical stadia where extended surrounding floor plates hide the place for major events – the seating area – from anywhere other than the seating area itself. With strict calibration of mutated height and engagement with the ground, the back of seating is made visible at a proper scale through the entrance.

Seating Drawing


Seating Model

Index to Techtonic Surface

     The form-generating process considers the actual construction of the geometry, making each component planar and subject for structural interpretation and thickening of members. The inner ring of the each section is set up on the same XY plane, suggesting a compression ring construction with the help anchoring in the flat podium. The intentional deferring of architectural components generates the discussion of how and where indexes in digital models are matched symbolically with architectural language. Possibilities and implications of building skin paneling and transparent facade treatment is suggested yet not literally manifested in the physical modeling process.

Tectonic Surface

Tectonic Translation

Tectonic Model