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FNB Stadium wins awards
27 September 2010

The iconic venue is racking up the awards, getting recognition both locally and abroad for its design and functionality.

FNB Stadium – known as Soccer City during this year’s World Cup – has just been given two prestigious awards: it was the overall winner of this year’s international Leaf Awards and the winner in the best public building category.

Bob van Beeber, the architect whose design for a soccer stadium was accepted in 2006
Bob van Beeber, the architect whose design for a soccer stadium was accepted in 2006

“We were very surprised and naturally overwhelmed,” says architect Bob van Bebber, the person whose design for the stadium was chosen four years ago.

“Now in its seventh year, the Leaf Awards honour the architects designing the buildings and solutions that are setting the benchmark for the international architectural community,” indicates the Leaf website.

The stadium, resembling a massive calabash, rises from the ground at Nasrec, its rounded multi-coloured shape outflanking the surrounding mine dumps and providing an imposing backdrop for the city’s skyscrapers. The three-tier stadium soars 60 metres into the air and stretches across 300 metres, a concrete and steel masterpiece. At night, with the lights shining through the clear shapes of the calabash sides, it takes on an ethereal quality.

“A wonderful, exuberant design that seems almost uncannily to represent the continent in which it is constructed, the judges felt this would be an iconic building for Africa for years to come. I am sure you will agree this is a worthy winner,” the judges recorded on the website.

Another award

In mid-October 2010 the South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors awarded the FNB Stadium and Grinaker-LTA the prestigious Presidential Award, for "excellence, safety adherence and social upliftment".

A director at Boogertman Urban Edge & Partners, Van Bebber says the firm had hopes of winning one category, so were especially pleased to take the overall prize as well.

“The already world-famous project was chosen for its outstanding design and integral practical solutions. The judges and international architectural community was captivated by the excellence of the project,” said the judges.

The awards ceremony took place in London in early September, and the judges were unequivocal in their choice. “The architecture of Soccer City integrates the urban context of Johannesburg, its society, the historical mining industry of South Africa, and African culture as a whole. The facade design finished in shades of brown brings human scale to a monumental building giving it instant appeal, warmth and accessibility.”

Finalists in the nine categories included the amazing Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai, the tallest building in the world, and the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

Van Bebber considers the design of the stadium to be “world class and [it] stands tall. It is also of very specific cultural and regional significance.”

Seven World Cup games were played at the stadium, including the opening and final. It was filled to capacity every time. Van Bebber feels satisfied with the stadium’s performance. “We achieved what we had set out to do, that is to create an atmosphere for the people to enjoy the spectacle.”

Other awards
The FNB Stadium has also picked up a range of local awards this year: the VISI award for the Best Designers in South Africa; the 42nd Sapoa Convention and Property Exhibition award in the category stadia; and the award for Innovative Excellence in Property Development.

Although the stadium wasn’t quite finished in 2009, it received three awards last year: the Fulton Award for the Best Building Project - Concrete in Architecture, the Fulton Award for Commendation for Unique Design Aspects, and the SA Institute for Steel Construction Award.

In addition, the stadium also received the Grand Prix award in the category Communication design: three dimensional & environmental design – architecture and interior design, in the Loeries 2010.

And it has been shortlisted for the World Architecture Festival awards, to be announced in early November.

The firm says on its website: “Our aim is to maintain the highest levels of design quality, technological excellence and business integrity in order to promote a love of and commitment to architecture, to maintain our lead as South Africa’s foremost technological, service based architectural firms, and to be at the front of cutting edge technology, whilst maintaining traditional values of integrity and service.”

The company was ranked first in South Africa and Africa and 63rd in the world for 2008, according to World Architecture Magazine.

Van Bebber says the stadium has more than lived up to his expectations. He originally drew up a proposal for a world cup stadium back in 1991 while completing his architecture degree at Wits University. Ever since then he has been determined that his dream be fulfilled. When the call went out in 2006 for designs for a stadium at Nasrec he submitted his calabash concept, which was accepted.

Construction took three years – it began in February 2007 and was completed in March this year. The stadium cost R3,3-billion to build and accommodates close to 90 000 spectators.

The world football body, FIFA, described the stadium as “one of the most artistic and awe-inspiring football venues on the African continent”.

When asked whether the firm was working on other projects of the same magnitude, Van Bebber replies: “Architecture is not only for special occasions, so we will always put the same energy into all our projects to achieve a high standard. However, not all projects are worthy winners so we’ll work towards selecting those projects we deem to have a significant chance and submit them.”

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Last Updated on 27 October 2010