12 Impressive Stadiums That Look Like Spaceships When Seen From Above

Ericsson Globe – Stockholm, Sweden
Ericsson Globe – Stockholm, Sweden

Thanks to Google Earth, the world is literally at our fingertips. The addictive virtual globe offers a seemingly endless selection of locations to visit from above, enabling users to travel across the planet without even leaving their seats. World-famous stadiums are a natural draw for any sports fan using the program, and it’s quite fascinating to discover how these iconic structures appear from the sky. Here we check out 12 of the most breathtaking bird’s-eye views of futuristic looking stadiums from around the world.

Ensconced in Stockholm’s Johanneshov district, the orb-shaped Ericsson Globe cuts an alien looking figure on the local skyline – like a giant golf ball that fell from the clouds. The arena was designed by local practice Berg Arkitektkontor (now part of global firm CF Møller Architects) and opened in 1989. It has a maximum capacity of 16,000 and is officially the biggest hemispherical building on the planet. Largely used as an ice hockey venue, the Globe has staged several World Championships and NHL Challenge Series. It has also been frequented by major performing pop stars – from Cher to Justin Bieber – as well as world leaders such as Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. Interestingly, the structure stands for the Sun in the world’s most sizable scale model of the Solar System, which is spread out across Sweden.

Yoyogi National Gymnasium – Tokyo, Japan
Yoyogi National Gymnasium – Tokyo, Japan

Conceived by renowned Japanese modernist architect Kenzō Tange, Tokyo’s Yoyogi National Gymnasium looks strikingly futuristic even today, half a century after it was built. Tange’s celebrated facility was designed for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and for those games it hosted diving, swimming and basketball events in two separate gymnasiums boasting a combined capacity of 16,493. The arena is particularly noted for its huge suspension roof and groundbreaking Metabolist design – an aesthetic that differentiated Tange’s work from the then popular International Style. Today, the gymnasium is mostly used for basketball, ice hockey and futsal indoor soccer. It is also scheduled to stage handball matches during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

Olympiastadion – Munich, Germany
Olympiastadion – Munich, Germany

With its space-age seeming acrylic glass membrane, Munich’s Olympiastadion looks like some kind of moon base from above. Based aesthetically on the Alps, the steel cable-reinforced diaphanous canopy was designed to represent an optimistic beginning for the newly democratized Germany as well as to distance the country from the Nazi-tainted 1936 Olympic Games. The stadium was the brainchild of German structural engineer Frei Otto and his notable deconstructivist countryman, the architect Günter Behnisch. The facility is the centerpiece of the city’s Olympiapark, which was built for the 1972 Munich Olympics. It can presently accommodate 69,250 people and has previously hosted high-profile soccer matches such as the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup. The Olympiastadion additionally doubles as a noteworthy open-air music venue and has also been used for motor sports.

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Olympic Stadium – Montreal, Canada
Olympic Stadium – Montreal, Canada

From the sky, Montreal’s “Big O” Olympic Stadium looks more like a spaceship than a multipurpose venue for sports and other events. Jokingly dubbed “The Big Owe” on account of its uber-pricey $651 million initial construction cost, the stadium was originally developed for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. However, it wasn’t until 1987 that it was fully completed; and even then, its problematic retractable roof didn’t become functional for another year and was done away with altogether in 1998. After the Olympics, a multi-level observatory was added to the stadium’s Montreal Tower – the tallest leaning tower on the planet – and by 2006, following numerous setbacks, total costs rose to $1.35 billion. In the years since 1976, local football, baseball and soccer teams have used the Olympic Stadium, although it is currently without a permanent tenant.

Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena – Shanghai, China
Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena – Shanghai, China

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The Qizhong Forest Sports City Arena in Shanghai, China is another unconventional sports facility that appears pretty amazing in aerial photographs. Its most striking feature is its shiny retractable roof, which showcases eight petal-like steel segments designed to collectively resemble a magnolia blossom when opened. The $200 million, 15,000-seat stadium was opened in 2005, having been built for the ATP World Tour Finals, which it hosted from 2005 to 2008. The structure’s blueprint was conceived by Japanese architect Mitsuru Senda, whose firm, Environment Design Institute, worked with Naomi Sato Architects and the Shanghai Institute of Architectural Design Research to realize the ambitious project. The stadium has also been used for basketball and can accommodate volleyball, gymnastics and table tennis events.

Moses Mabhida Stadium – Durban, South Africa
Moses Mabhida Stadium – Durban, South Africa

The beautiful Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, South Africa was built as a host venue for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The $450 million facility was designed by global firm Gerkan, Marg and Partners – which worked with several smaller South African companies – and was opened in 2009. The structure’s distinctive arch boasts a 500-step adventure walk, a “SkyCar” cable ride and an elevated viewing platform, offering breathtaking 360° vistas taking in the Indian Ocean and the coastal city of Durban. Below, the stadium’s roof features the Big Rush Big Swing – the tallest swing on the planet, according to Guinness World Records. Today, the Moses Mabhida Stadium is home to local soccer team AmaZulu FC. The venue’s current capacity is 54,000, although its World Cup attendance capability was boosted to approximately 69,000.

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Sapporo Dome – Hokkaidō, Japan
Sapporo Dome – Hokkaidō, Japan

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The Sapporo Dome in Hokkaidō, Japan is another modern stadium that almost looks better suited for space travel than sporting events. The roughly $425 million structure was completed in March 2001, based on the designs of esteemed Japanese architect Hiroshi Hara. Currently, the facility is home to professional baseball outfit the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters and pro soccer team Consadole Sapporo. To accommodate both its sports, the stadium features two distinct surfaces; it seats a maximum of 41,484 people in soccer mode – although 2009 renovations made it capable of holding up to 53,796, thanks to added temporary seating. The Sapporo Dome hosted three 2002 FIFA World Cup matches and was named as one of six soccer venues for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

Aviva Stadium – Dublin, Ireland
Aviva Stadium – Dublin, Ireland

Completed in 2010, Dublin’s award-winning Aviva Stadium cost a jaw-dropping $538.56 million to build. The stylish venue was conceived by global firm Populous and British/Irish practice Scott Tallon Walker Architects and seats up to 51,700. It is co-owned by the Irish Rugby Football Union and the Football Association of Ireland, and rugby and soccer aside, it has been used for concerts and American football. The facility’s most impressive feature is arguably its translucent polycarbonate roof, which was designed to flood the stadium with natural light and also avoid casting the surrounding neighborhood in shadow. The innovative structure in addition boasts a number of eco-friendly design features, such as waterless urinals, sophisticated lighting controls, and a rainwater harvesting system for irrigation.

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National Stadium – Beijing, China
National Stadium – Beijing, China

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Known as the Bird’s Nest, Beijing’s National Stadium looks almost as impressive from the sky as it does at ground level. The unique facility was built for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and Paralympics, having been designed by global architecture practice Herzog & de Meuron, the China Architecture Design & Research Group, prominent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and multinational consulting engineers Arup. Inspired by Chinese pottery, the exterior’s seemingly random woven look is actually geometrically prescribed, while the roof’s shape is a tribute to the Chinese philosophical concept of yin and yang. Since the Olympics, the $423 million stadium has been relatively underused, occasionally hosting soccer, motor racing and other events. Its current capacity is 80,000.

Arena das Dunas – Natal, Brazil
Arena das Dunas – Natal, Brazil

Sports architects Populous were also behind the design of the stunning Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil, which was built for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The coastal city’s signature sand dunes inspired the stadium, whose name literally means “Arena of Dunes.” According to Populous’ website, the “facade and roof are integrated and made up of 20 petal-shaped modules, designed to be higher on one… [side], giving the impression that the sand dunes… are moving.” The roof’s translucent polycarbonate sections bathe the venue in daylight, and the roof also collects rainwater that is then redistributed around the facility. The 31,375-seat stadium opened its gates in January 2014 and cost $178,79 million to complete.

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Estádio Nacional de Brasília Mané Garrincha – Brasilia, Brazil
Estádio Nacional de Brasília Mané Garrincha – Brasilia, Brazil

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Like the Arena das Dunas, Brazil’s Estádio Nacional de Brasília Mané Garrincha was a 2014 FIFA World Cup host venue. The stadium was used for the first time in 1974, at which time it held a capacity of 45,200. However, following a $900 million rebuilding project that took place between 2010 and 2013, the Estádio’s capacity was upped to approximately 70,000, making it the second biggest stadium in the country. Overseen by São Paulo firm Castro Mello arquiteto, the facility’s makeover in addition marked it out as the world’s second most expensive soccer stadium. Estádio Nacional de Brasilia has hosted the performances of numerous international music stars – from Iron Maiden to Beyoncé – and was named as a venue for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Allianz Arena – Munich, Germany
Allianz Arena – Munich, Germany

Thanks to its groundbreaking color-shifting exterior and sleek design, the Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany has been described as one of the world’s finest-looking stadiums. Like Beijing’s National Stadium, the breathtaking arena was conceived by Herzog & de Meuron, again in partnership with Arup, and the undertaking was completed in 2005. The $446.62 million facility boasts a top capacity of 75,024 and is currently the home ground of local soccer teams Bayern München and TSV 1860 München. The stadium is also used by the German national soccer team and played host to six 2006 FIFA World Cup matches. Incredibly, its luminous facade – which is made up of inflated ethylene tetrafluoroethylene panels – switches color depending on who’s playing.

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