Pattern Design is a London-based architectural practice focused on innovative, rule-based parametric design. Until Pattern’s Hazza bin Zayed (HBZ) stadium in Al-Ain, UAE, was conceived, all Middle East stadiums mimicked a European, temperate-climate model. Pattern rejected this notion and created an innovative design rooted in the hot, dry climate of the region.

“We are very proud to have taken the simple idea of shade in a hot climate, and invented the parasol stadium roof,” says director Dipesh Patel.

The 25,000-seat Fifa-class football stadium reinvents the sports architecture sector in the Gulf region by embedding Al-Ain’s unique history and climate into the fabric of the architecture. The city boasts one of the oldest date plantations in the Gulf, and the palm tree has huge significance to the people and culture of the city. The HBZ stadium uses this powerful symbol to create a passive facade that shades and promotes air movement through the facility. With the parasol roof, the palm facade shelters the seating bowl.

Taking the best of classic English football stadiums, the unique three-tier bowl (a first for a 25,000-seat stadium) is a product of the community it serves. Promoting football to a new generation, the stadium caters to all users: young and old, men and women, families and children. Appropriate segregation respects local customs and the unique slope-cut lower tier provides more high-value seats. The bespoke bowl has the majesty of much larger stadiums while responding to the scale of local football crowds.

“HBZ stadium is our first built project,” says Patel. “It embodies our design principles of natural order, mathematics and visual harmony. We are very, very proud of it and what we have achieved as a practice in our first three years.”

Parasol roof

The stadium’s roof is the first in the Gulf specifically designed for solar protection. Pattern took inspiration from the Arabic head-dress and developed a sinuous and gravity-bending parasol roof that shades the pitch and its spectators during matches, while providing enough sunlight during the day to allow the natural pitch to flourish. The apparent levitating nature of the roof allows all spectators an unobstructed view of the action and intensifies the atmosphere within the bowl during each match.

The newly completed stadium is the home of Al-Ain Football Club, one of the leading clubs in the UAE Pro League. The facility is very much a club set in an urban context, rather than a remote venue in a sea of parking. To this end, stadium assets are concentrated in the west stand to maximise non-match-day opportunities and create a vibrant year-round destination.

Pattern Design is also designing the Al-Rayyan stadium for the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar.