DONGGUAN – Dongguan’s love affair with basketball might seem idiosyncratic, but considering the growing popularity of the sport in China – and the fact that the city serves as a base of one of the nation’s most successful basketball teams – a new, purpose-built stadium was sorely needed. Enter the German firm Architekten von Gerkan, Marg und Partner.
No stranger to large, prestigious projects, the globally-operating, Hamburg-headquartered office once again delivered a clear, functional, and thoroughly contemporary statement. The stadium is certainly large – seating almost 15,000 spectators – and surrounded by recreational parkland. Standing on an artificial mound on the city’s edge, overlooking a dense network of highways, it also serves as a landmark and orientation point in the densely populated region.
‘Stadiums in China have two characteristics: a symbolic form and a clearly defined structure,’ the architects inform us. ‘The Chinese understand and remember symbolic form very well; which in the case of Dongguan is “a ball in the basket”.’
Indeed, the basketball court and spectator seating – the ball – is wrapped in a bright orange skin, around which there is a transparent foyer, with a triangulated glazing grid and a large, superstructural oval truss forming the basket. The insulated glass panels comprising the building skin are held in place by a network of cables between roof and floor, further blurring the visual barriers between the inside and the outside.
Far from designing a mere formal gimmick, the architects have managed to articulate the structure with characteristic grace and attention to details, producing a convincing synthesis of symbolism, form and function.