Zaha Hadid Architects has unveiled its design for a 40,000-seat soccer stadium to rise in the Arabian kingdom of Qatar. The project is slated to be complete in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and is only one of several such facilities that the oil-rich nation plans to build—in addition to miles of roads, a seaport, airport, and a rail system—in a $140 billion spending spree to lay down the infrastructure necessary to support the event and the international crowds it attracts.
Hadid’s office has stated that the design of the stadium is derived from the dhow, a type of fishing vessel that is common among the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula. Several commentators have pointed out, however, that the renderings more closely resemble the mounds, folds, and cavities of a certain very private part of the female anatomy.
Since the World Cup is played during the summertime, one of the chief challenges of the design will be keeping the interior environment cool enough for comfortable spectating. Ambient temperatures in Qatar can reach as high as 120 degrees fahrenheit.
According to Hadid’s office, which is working on the project with AECOM, the shape of the roof—which will be a composite structure of steel and engineered timber—has been specifically designed to encourage passive cooling. This combined with mechanical air conditioning systems will keep the interior temperature at around 85 degrees fahrenheit.
Hadid’s feminine formed stadium falls among an illustrious company of other buildings that have attempted to counterbalance the predominantly male derived motifs of architecture. (Didn’t someone once point out the phallic nature of the skyscraper?) Oddly enough, as with Hadid and her dhow diversionary tactics, few designers actually advertise that their lady like buildings are inspired by this impulse, and most commentators commend them for other reasons.
The clearly feminine crown of A. Epstein & Sons’ 1983 Smurfit-Stone Building in Chicago was also allegedly designed to reference sail boats, these in Lake Michigan, rather than a vagina. And Philip Johnson’s award-winning 1975 Penzoil Place in Houston was lauded for helping architects to break away from the rectangular modernist box, rather than applauded for looking like a girl lying on her back with her knees in the air.
While the profession of architecture roils with calls for more recognition of women’s roles in great buildings, can’t it also come a little cleaner about when it uses the feminine form as inspiration?