Global architecture and design practice Populous, designer of the London 2012 Olympic Stadium, has been selected as architect for a large new stadium in the compact town of Rostov-on-Don, Russia, a city of just over 1 million people about 650 miles south of Moscow. Designed to host the FIFA World Cup in 2018, the stadium is Populous’ fourth design for a sports venue in Russia and will contain an anticipated 45,000 seats under a cloud-like, seemingly-floating canopy.
Set along the Don River, the Rostov Stadium design takes into account the surrounding landscape by drawing inspiration from kurgans—archeological mounds of earth formed along river banks and once used for pagan rituals—with artificial hills pushed up around the stadium’s perimeter. Populous took an environmentally conscious stance in their proposal, aiming to protect wetlands south of the River near the stadium site. The stadium itself is sheltered by a balloon-like roof consisting of two long panels around its perimeter—each resembling a smooth, curving paintbrush stroke from above—with a central opening allowing light onto the playing field. External paths and entrances to the venue continue this theme with more curves and soft winding lines. For the World Cup, the stadium will have a capacity of 45,000 seats, which will later be scaled down to 25,000 seats.