Gothic stadium would unite sport with art

Elevation showing the west front of a Christchurch stadium proposed for Madras Street (though Addington may serve better) August MMXII - James Carr
Elevation showing the west front of a Christchurch stadium proposed for Madras Street (though Addington may serve better) August MMXII - James Carr

A medieval-style sports stadium could become a fitting base for the Crusaders rugby team.

Christchurch architectural graduate and structural engineer James Carr has produced a neo-Gothic design for the city's new sports stadium, featuring stone-clad walls, arched windows, turrets and spires.

His Gothic Revival design for the Triangle Centre site between Cashel, High and Colombo streets last month divided opinion.

A gothic stadium could be the new home of rugby.
A gothic stadium could be the new home of rugby.

The latest offering is likely to be as controversial, but has at least one fan in Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach, who said the concept was “spectacular”.

Carr said he was inspired by the description of rugby as a national religion and the “spiky, hulking grey presence” of the former AMI Stadium in Phillipstown.

“A stadium will be brutally expensive, whatever is done, so it might as well be spectacular and give some scope to employ a few local artists and craftspeople in its construction,” he said.

“It will dominate the skyline, so it may as well do it with style.

"No-one else would have a stadium like this one.”

The reinforced-concrete building would be faced with Port Hills andesite and Oamaru limestone, and the stands roofed with copper and slate.

The main dome would be a folded glass structure supported on steel lattice arches.

Flying buttresses around the perimeter, hidden by trees, would carry the thrust of the roof into the ground.

Niches in the entrance and towers would house statues of the city's sporting heroes.

The heritage-listed NG Gallery building would be retained because the owners had worked “very hard to bring life and hope back into the city”, Carr said.

“Putting sports together with the arts might seem odd these days, but the extreme separation of these two vital things in our society strikes me as being a relatively recent thing and not especially healthy for our culture either,” he said.

Riach said he had not considered specific details of the stadium design, but Carr's idea showed there was “potentially any number of ways the stadium could ultimately look”.

“There may be other wonderful concepts and ideas that we are not yet aware of,” he said.

Heritage advocate and art history associate professor Ian Lochhead said Carr's design challenged the public to consider the stadium as a piece of architecture that would make a statement about the city.

“To build a utilitarian stadium shed, as Dunedin has done, would be unthinkable in Christchurch where the city has always prided itself on the quality of its built environment,” he said.

“Stadia are usually such generic structures and what James' design shows is that this does not need to be the case.”

Christchurch Central Development Unit director Warwick Isaacs said it was pleasing the Share An Idea concept was continuing.

“It's a good indication that when it comes time to call for tenders for the various anchor projects, we can expect to see a wealth of designs from people keen to incorporate Christchurch's past with its future,” he said.

The Press