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Chris Lee, Managing Director, Populous

Project - White Hart Lane, London


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The architect masterminding a new home for English football team Tottenham Hotspur – billed by the Premier League club as “the most unique sports and entertainment destination in Europe” – has lifted the lid on how the stadium will create an important hub for the local community.

Speaking to CLAD during a tour of the construction site, Chris Lee, managing director of architects Populous, said the key driver of the £750m (US$932.2m, ¤879.4m) White Hart Lane project is the desire to create “a civic building that is physically and emotionally knitted into the local community.”

A plaza to the south of the 61,000-capacity ground will house restaurants, street food stalls, five-a-side football pitches and a microbrewery. There will also be a museum dedicated to the club and local area and an extreme sports centre with Europe’s highest climbing wall and a seven-storey diving tank. The club says the development will create 3,500 jobs and pump £293m (US$364m, ¤343.5m) into the local economy each year.

“Currently Tottenham doesn’t have a centre,” said Lee. “We’re creating a space the size of Trafalgar Square that will be open 24 hours a day, linking both sides of the stadium.

“The great thing about football clubs is we, the fans, own them. The people who live here should think, ‘This is my club, I walk past it every day and I feel a part of it.’ Creating an accessible public space is important commercially, but it’s even more important socially.

“Someone from the club told me that this stadium’s competition isn’t the Emirates [the stadium of rival team Arsenal, also designed by Populous], it’s the High Street. The aim is to get fans to come earlier, dine with us, and experience the stadium. On many levels this approach to the community is what’s changed most in the last 15 years of stadium design.”

Lee explained how the design team drew inspiration from the old stadiums of England and Europe to create a facility with an electric match-day atmosphere. A tight atmospheric bowl, which places spectators in the north and south stands just 5m (16.4ft) away from the action, and the addition of a 17,000-seat single-tier stand – the largest in the UK – will generate “a wall of sound” that reverberates around the ground. Expert acousticians have optimised the sound within the stadium bowl.

“One of the things Daniel Levy [the chairman] was scared of was creating a generic stadium,” said Lee. “He wanted something with character and personality. The old White Hart Lane is such a lovely stadium and so quirky in its nuance. We wanted to incorporate the best bits of traditional English stadiums. That drove the thinking around the single tier, the steepness and the proximity of it all.”

There’ll be further innovative features, including the retractable 22-tonne grass field, which in 40 minutes can make way for an artificial pitch below in event of concerts and occasional National Football League fixtures. The stadium will feature a purpose-built glass-walled Tunnel Club, which allows guests a behind-the-scenes view of the players’ tunnel, and a range of bespoke suites and bars.

When completed in 2018, it will be the largest club arena in London.

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CLAD people: Chris Lee, managing director, Populous
Lifts the lid on the design of White Hart Lane