Profile

John Rhodes

HOK have been appointed to design a highly flexible arena that can host sporting, cultural and music events and will help regenerate Valencia’s downtown. Tom Walker spoke to HOK’s Sports + Recreation + Entertainment’s John Rhodes


Read on turning pages | Download PDF | sign up to CLAD

Spanish billionaire Juan Roig last year announced plans to develop a multi-use sports arena in his hometown of Valencia, Spain. As well as the new home for Valencia Basket – a professional basketball team owned by Roig – the €192m (US$221m, £170m) venue is set to become the region’s premier indoor events destination.

Roig has set up an enterprise, called Licampa 1617, specifically for the project and has appointed sports architects HOK to design the arena. The arena is part of a plan to grow the profile of Valencia Basket and there are also plans to hold National Basketball Association (NBA) games at the venue.

HOK has been tasked with creating a multi-purpose, flexible design and will work in partnership with local architecture practice ERRE on the project. The new arena is set to open in 2022.

Could you tell us about Valencia Basket’s new arena?
Licampa 1617 has ambitious plans for the club. The team’s current home venue – Pavelló Municipal Font de San Lluís – only has a capacity of around 9,000 spectators, so the new 15,000-seater arena will have a significantly larger capacity and is part of a long-term sustainable strategy for the club.

Licampa wants to create not just a new home for the club, but a venue which can host a wide range of events – from family entertainment and concerts to other sports.

This will allow the building to generate revenue and support investment in the basketball team.

You’re working with local architects ERRE Arquitectura on the project – what can you say about them?
They are a wonderfully enthusiastic and energetic practice who have done some great projects in Valencia. We really enjoy working with them and it’s been wonderful to get a team that bonds well.

All successful projects are the result of a team endeavour, so if you can get a team that works well and is balanced you’ll get a much better product. It’s great for us to have the mix of a local partner and our global expertise.

Can you describe the design of the arena?
We are still at an early stage of the design process, but at the heart of the brief is a desire to create a wonderful customer experience. We’re looking to create a flexible, sustainable venue with a range of premium seating products.

The arena will be built on a gateway site, next to the main road into the city from Alicante – a very prominent position in the city. The location will influence some of the design aspects, as the goal is to create a meaningful building with a civic presence.

The club has already built a training facility and academy next to where the new arena will sit. The academy has a focus on developing young players and this will fit perfectly with the strategy of creating a long-term, sustainable plan for the club, not just in terms of player generation, but also community involvement.

The site sounds like an interesting one
It really is and it offers great opportunities.

Urbanistically, the arena project will kick start a process that will see the area evolving into a sporting district. As well as the arena and the training academy, there are municipal playing fields and training facilities for rugby next door, so the arena will become the focal point of all those combined elements.

In a larger, regeneration sense, the area in which the arena sits has not, historically, been among the city’s wealthiest districts. So the project will bring a different character and a vibe to the area.

The brief is for a multi-use venue – how flexible will the design be?
Having a resident basketball team means we need to create a great environment for basketball fans. We also need to create flexibility, so the venue can operate in many different configurations – be that for large-scale stage shows or smaller, intimate music concerts.

Much of it will be to do with the seating bowl. Ideally, you want to be able to tailor the seating for each specific environment and event that the arena will cater for.

In terms of innovation we need to deliver an arena which will evolve with the market over a long period of time – and evolve with the content of the market. The event mix at modern arenas is constantly changing and we’re seeing things like e-sports come into play, so we need to think about how we can adapt to that.

So the challenge is to not just scale up capacity – but to scale down too?
Yes. There’s now an emerging market for smaller gigs. The ability for the Valencia venue to adapt to smaller configurations – for anything between 3,000 and 7,000 – will be key.

From an architectural point of view, that means that the arena’s design has to adapt to cater for smaller acoustic gigs.

What we want to provide is a truly authentic experience, so the acoustics and ambience need to be right even when you’re not using the entire building.

Building in the ability to cater for those smaller gigs – and the likes of e-sports – is becoming a way of future-proofing a venue.

Are there any tricks to get that future proofing right? How do you ‘look into the future’ and identify trends?
Clearly you need to keep your finger on the pulse. You need to know what operators are doing and where they are going, but you could say that about any architecture.

It can be tricky, because the industry will evolve in a way that you can’t always imagine – who knows, chariot racing might come back – but the ability to be flexible is key.

The reality is that arenas are far more complex than stadiums, because with stadiums you usually have a very fixed field of play, designed for a particular sport – such as football or rugby.

With an arena you have to envisage where the focal points might be in the future and make sure the bowl can actually adapt to that functionality. Some of the key factors include having the right mix of retractable and fixed seating and creating the right technological frameworks that allow the introduction of additional technology in the future.

Typically, when we are designing arenas, we explore a wide range of configurations and scope the flexibility associated with all sorts of weird and wonderful events – such as the Walking with Dinosaurs arena show. You need to make sure you can get your brontosaurus into the service yard!

How would you define good arena design?
Design should always be underpinned by the experiences people have. As venue architects, we need to focus on the individuals and the experiences they will have at the venues we design.

In some ways arenas – and to certain extent stadiums – are contraindicated, because we’re looking to create an intimate personal experience within the context of a macro environment where there are thousands of people.

Perhaps the only other super-sized buildings which gather people like sports venues do are airports – and airports aren’t historically always associated with providing the most enjoyable experiences.

So while you want to create an arena which offers an intimate human experience, it’s very much about the celebration of people coming together. If you can manage that well, a venue can become very special. That’s the cornerstone for any truly great venue – to find a way to solve that contraindication.

Juan Roig

Roig is a native of Valencia and a passionate basketball fan. He is the president of Mercadona, the Spanish supermarket chain, which he built into a multi-billion euro business in the 1980s and 1990s. Forbes estimated his net worth (in July 2018) at around US$4.3bn.

Roig is the owner of Valencia Basket and has ambitions to develop the club into a leading European force. Roig has set up a company – Licampa 1617 –specifically to help develop a new arena for the team.

Gallery
Click on an image to open the image gallery
company profile
Company profile: TVS Group
TVS has a broad portfolio of products, including high-performing shock pads, surfaces for sport, fitness and play, as well as highly specialised acoustic materials for noise and vibration control.
Try cladmag for free!
Sign up with CLAD to receive our regular ezine, instant news alerts, free digital subscriptions to CLADweek, CLADmag and CLADbook and to request a free sample of the next issue of CLADmag.
sign up
features
The film is set in the fictional African country of Wakanda
"I fell in love with Zaha Hadid"

Black Panther set designer Hannah Beachler

Profile: Caroline Bos
"I like art that is against the mainstream, slightly off, with a twist"

UNStudio’s co-founder on the unexpected challenges of designing Australia’s tallest skyscraper

The Lemay Community Recreation Center and Aquatic Complex houses a range of activities
David Polzin is executive director of design at CannonDesign. He studied at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture
"We were able to create an ‘acoustic shadow’ cutting decibel levels nearly in half"

How to design the perfect community leisure centre 100 13th century pilgrimage The Vietnamese village being created using historic methods

Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
To advertise in our catalogue gallery: call +44(0)1462 431385
features
CLAD people: Vincent Callebaut
"It’s about tracing the evolution of thermal practices"

Eco architect Vincent Callebaut has won a competition to redesign ancient thermal baths in the Savoyard town of Aix-les-Bains, France

Profile: John Rhodes
John Rhodes
"It’s about the celebration of people coming together. If you can manage that well, a venue can become very special"

HOK has been tasked with designing a truly flexible arena for Valencia. John Rhodes is up for the challenge

A giant bear watches over Aarhus’s harbour. The playground is part of Schmidt Hammer Lassen’s Dokk1 library project
Ole Barslund Nielsen founded Monstrum in 2003 with Christian Jensen. The two met when working in theatre scenography
"Failing and falling can be a good thing"

How his background in theatre set design inspired Ole Barslund Nielsen to create playgrounds with a difference

features
Peter Cook
"Somehow we’d caught the imagination of people"

As a book about radical architecture collective Archigram is released, we speak to one of the founders about the need for fun

The project will comprise a series of viewing spaces linked by tunnels
West announced the donation to the Roden Crater after a recent visit
"We will all live in Turrell spaces one day"

Musician Kanye West to help fund the still unfinished Roden Crater, designed by American artist James Turrell

The restaurant features custom-designed furniture
Daniela Colli
"The alternation of light and shadow is essential to give dynamism to a space"

Italian architect Daniela Colli tells us how she looked to classical art for inspiration on how to deal with light and shadow in her latest project

cladkit product news
Alusid's Sequel collection combines craftsmanship and sustainability says founder
The Sequel collection is billed as the 'most waste-efficient and sustainable' on the market
Lauren Heath-Jones
Alusid, a creator of eco-friendly surfaces, has partnered with Parkside to launch the Sequel range, the brand's first collection of ...
David Rockwell partners with Jim Thompson for dream-inspired fabric collection
Rockwell has designed 12 multi-use fabrics inspired by dreams with long-time collaborator Jim Thompson
Lauren Heath-Jones
Renowned architect David Rockwell has created a collection of fabrics with long-time collaborator Jim Thompson. Called Dreams, the collection was ...
Paul Kelley pushes 'technical boundaries' with modular furniture cube system
The system is designed to enable users to create multifunctional, adaptable pieces, where they are in complete control of the design and function of their furniture
Lauren Heath-Jones
British designer Paul Kelley has created a modular magnetic cube furniture system that enables users to create multifunctional, adaptable pieces, ...
cladkit product news
Water inspires Zaha Hadid Design x Rosenthal collaboration
The collection consists of three smaller collections: Weave, Strip and Lapp. Weave was inspired by 'the fluid lines of Zaha Hadid's sketching hand'
Lauren Heath-Jones
Zaha Hadid Design has partnered with porcelain manufacturer Rosenthal to create a new collection of vases. Called the Lapp collection, ...
Mater partners with Ditzel family to create eco-friendly furniture using reclaimed plastic
The furniture uses plastic from recycled fishing nets
Lauren Heath-Jones
Mater, an ethical design brand based in Denmark, has launched a furniture collection made from plastic reclaimed from the ocean. ...
Baux creates plant-based acoustic panels
Baux has worked with scientists from the Royal Institute of Technology to create Baux Acoustic Pulp, a plant-derived acoustic solution
Lauren Heath-Jones
Baux, an acoustic products brand based in Sweden, has developed a line of biodegradable acoustic panels, using a plant-based material ...
cladkit product news
BD Barcelona Design reveals Cristallo by the late Alessandro Mendini
Cristallo was the last design from acclaimed designer and architect Alessandro Mendini
Lauren Heath-Jones
Design Studio BD Barcelona Design has released Cristallo, a limited-edition cabinet designed by the late architect and designer Alessandro Mendini, ...
Tom Dixon Studio to relaunch iconic Pylon chair
Pylon was first designed more than 20 years ago
Lauren Heath-Jones
Originally conceived in his metal workshop in the early 90's, the Pylon chair was Dixon's attempt to create the world's ...
Volvo partners with Reef Lab Designs to encourage ocean biodiversity
The tiles are made from marine-grade concrete and recycled plastic fibres
Lauren Heath-Jones
Car manufacturer Volvo has partnered with the Sydney Institute of Marine Science and Reef Design Lab to create an environmentally-friendly ...