Zaha Hadid Architects’ (ZHA) 2022 FIFA World Cup stadium, a billowing, nautically-inspired venue in the coastal city of Al Wakrah, Qatar, is now open to the public.

Together with AECOM, ZHA drew on the shape of dhows, long, thin traditional sailing boats, to create the swooping curves of the Al Janoub Stadium’s roof. When the 40,000-seat soccer stadium (collapsible to 20,000 after the World Cup) was first revealed, however, commentators were quick to point out its yonic shape and textures. The supposedly fleshy creases are formally meant to reference large sails, while the curved sections are supposed to approximate dhows turned over on their hulls to provide shelter.

Adding further complexity to the roof are the pleated panels that cascade down the sides of the building, connecting at the eaves to bronzed lattices on the lower stories. The lower screens visually depart from the white and off-white panels above, but also reference traditional Islamic crafting techniques through their shape and metallic cover.

Inside, the stadium was designed to passively cool its patrons. The fully-operable polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) roof, designed by Schlaich Bergermann Partner unfurls along a cable track to protect spectators and players from the harsh summer sun.

The underside of the roof continues the nautical styling of the stadium’s exterior, with a coffered ceiling that meets circular, steel rigging at the center that’s crisscrossed with speakers, lights, and screens.

Al Janoub Stadium sits on top of a new landscaped podium, with large voids cut into the structure to allow for at-grade entry and vehicle access.

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