The Barge: a New Stadium for Feyenoord
There has been talk for years about a new stadium for Feyenoord, to replace the legendary football temple, also municipal monument, De Kuip (The Tub).
Allthough I am not as frequent a visitor of the stadium as some of my fellow townspeople, I also have my memories of De Kuip. For example, of a competition match of Feyenoord against Vitesse: 2-1. Pierre van Hooijdonk was still playing then, so it must have been a while ago.
Much longer ago I was at the best concert of the (twentieth) century by Eric Clapton. With Elton John as a disastrous support act and the then virtually unknown Bonnie Raytt doing a highly appreciated performance in between the two.
In 2016 I took part in a competition of ideas for the new stadium organized by local newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. Not your average architect competition: everyone was allowed to participate. Urbanist Riek Bakker and Feyenoord captain Dirk Kuyt were on the jury. The main prize was a meet and greet with David Gianotten of OMA, the intended architect of the new stadium. And an annual subscription to the AD and an invitation for the groundbreaking ceremony.
The program of requirements was simple. The stadium had to accommodate 63,000 spectators and, in addition to football, also had to be suitable for concerts and other events. And it had to fit on the site that was selected for it: just north of the existing Kuip, where currently there is an unsightly little industrial area.
Designing a stadium is a terribly complicated job. Sightlines, acoustics, construction, escape routes, Fifa guidelines, there are a lot of things that have to be right. It is an illusion that you do that on your own for a contest of your local newspaper.
However such a competition is a good occasion to come up with an out-of-the-box idea. An idea that has not been calculated down to the last seat and escape stair, but that is based as much as possible on plans and cross-sections of existing stadiums. An idea that tickles the imagination and that shows what could be there in a couple of years, on this special location by the river.
Because it is certainly a special place, this Feyenoord City, as it is called. Perhaps the most visible place in Rotterdam. The railway to Antwerp, Brussels and Paris whizzes right past it. An important traffic route from the Ring to the center, over Stadionweg, Varkenoordse Viaduct and Laan op Zuid, practically folds around it. Moreover, the stadium will be next to, and partially in, the river Nieuwe Maas, so it can be seen from miles around.
The plan of my competition entry was created by a few simple edits of the standard floorplan of a football stadium.
Step 1: Almost every large stadium has stands on four sides. This results in a rectangular shape.
Step 2: The game is best followed in the stands on the long sides of the field. So let’s make the stands a little bigger on that side and a little smaller behind the goals. The floor plan as a whole then becomes more of a square.
Step 3: the seats in the four corners are not ideal either, so it makes sense to further distort the floor plan into a circle.
Step 4: I stretched that circle a bit on one side and let it taper into a point. It starts to look more like a drop. This creates an asymmetrical shape that gives the building a direction. The point, higher than the rest of the stadium, is a perfect spot for skyboxes, with great views over both the field and the skyline. There is also room for meeting venues, restaurants, a press center and a museum.
Step 5: finally I made the teardrop a bit smoother, giving the floor plan the shape of a boat. Indeed, a boat. Not an inappropriate metaphor in the largest port city in Europe and certainly not in this place, half in the river.
The cross section below shows the stadium at a home match of Feyenoord against, er, a team with light blue as the club colour. On the right we see the stern, on the left the bow.
The roof consists of three sections. The middle section, above the field can be opened. Or closed, depending on how you look at it.
On the rear deck I imagine a publicly accessible green roof with a few football cages.
The front deck rises up to the stern, forming a perfect south facing slope with room for about 7,000 solar panels.
Alternatively, you could of course also grow vines here to produce red and white Feyenoord wine and use the yields to buy a few players.
The nickname for the new stadium would, most likely be De Schuit (The Barge), which has some reminiscence of the beloved Kuip. Both names are unpronouncable by non-Dutch speakers anyway.
So, somewhere in the near future, let’s take a watertaxi to The Barge for a match by Feyenoord or the Dutch national team or a concert by Eric Clapton. Does that sound right?
“Will this be the new stadium?”, the AD headlined under one of my pictures a few weeks later. A number of entries, including De Schuit, were presented within the newspaper, under the title Stadiums shine towards you. That article can still be read on the AD website, entitled Dazzling designs for a new Feyenoord stadium.
Unfortunately, the winner was not The Barge, but the design made by the children of the John F. Kennedy School in Hendrik-Ido-Ambacht. Its features include a climbing wall, an undulating roof, an F-shaped jetty and very large football-shaped facade openings. In the interior, the incredibly steep stands are particularly striking. A nickname for this stadium is also obvious: if the design were to be carried out, it could hardly be otherwise than The Box. I do believe in its iconic potential. But have someone take a look at the sightlines from the stands to the field, please. Anyway, congratulations, kids of the JFK!
In the years that followed, Feyenoord City, and the new stadium in particular, continued to be the talk of the town. And although I can usually appreciate the designs of my former employer, I was not really enthusiastic about the artist impressions that OMA came up with.
Many Feyenoord supporters were not eager to move to a new stadium anyway. But it was a matter of money that finally killed the stadium plans. In april 2022, Feyenoord announced that it was waiving its building ambitions. None of the options turned out to be feasible and there is hardly any money even for renovating the Kuip.
It’s a typical case of catch-22. To play at the highest level, Feyenoord needs a bigger budget and therefore more spectators and so a larger stadium. But to build a bigger stadium, Feyenoord needs a bigger budget.
Perhaps the situation will be different in ten or twenty years and a new stadium can still arise in Feyenoord City. But for now, the artist impressions of OMA, together with my beautiful pictures of De Schuit, can be stored in the large archive of Never Built Rotterdam.