Design Raid Articles What makes a great football stadium?

What makes a great football stadium?

What makes Anfield better than Wembley? Why did Juventus fans hate the Stadio delle Alpi? And why are West Ham fans unhappy? Architects and design experts offer some answers

I’m a West Ham fan. Our stadium is not good. It’s beautiful, but broken. It hosted the greatest British sporting event of the last 50 years, a grand and gleaming Olympic Games, but cannot handle a lower-mid-table Premier League game. This half-a-billion pound stadium gleams in the sunlight, but it’s full of holes, gaps, missing pieces, large canyons between prefab stands that are papered over, almost literally, with plastic claret sheets. The stadium’s problems are not just physical; they’re also psychological. It doesn’t feel like a football ground because it’s not one. It makes you wonder: what makes a great football stadium?

Grounds grow to match the identity of their team. Character is more important than capacity or having a technologically advanced concourse. You know it when you see it – or feel it: this sense that you are tied only to geography but to history. “Liverpool are one of those clubs who have a really strong identity,” says Professor Murray Fraser of the Bartlett School of Architecture in London. “When you go to Anfield, it very obviously is the ‘church’ of that community around it. I found it quite astonishing when I first went there and saw the houses around it. The people who live in that area see the stadium every day, get to look at Anfield every day as they move around town, and that builds a huge sense of identity.”

There are plenty of grounds that inspire similar feelings of civic pride and awe. Sat bang in the middle of Burnley, Turf Moor feels hard worn and hard-won, its dressing rooms spare and its away seats wooden, typical of a team that have dragged themselves up from the lower reaches of the league. Thirty miles south, Manchester United’s giant Old Trafford still feels like it’s part of the community, lined with red-brick houses up Sir Matt Busby Way, a giant club famous for both its general bigness and its long-held reliance on local talent.

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.


The heritage-listed former Dressing Pavilion situated on Williamstown foreshore has emerged with a new energy and sense of escapism
The layout emphasizes openness and flow, connection between indoors and outdoors, and privacy from the street with courtyards and fences creating outdoor spaces that act as buffer zones
Storyhouse includes a large main theatre space with a 20m high flytower, a studio with a dedicated bar, a boutique cinema and a city library
Experiencing a home like Murray Music includes exploration, giving another meaning and other use to spaces that normally have specific functions
The SIX is a 52-unit affordable housing project provides a home, support services and rehabilitation for previously homeless and/or disabled veterans
The project is located in one of Dubai’s busiest residential neighborhoods and accordingly surrounded by many low rise houses.
Like a kaleidoscope, the Andaz hotel reflects the culture and tradition of the neighbourhood, creating a stimulating and inspiring atmosphere ...
Located in Toronto’s Roncesvalles neighbourhood, the Galley house challenges conventional notions typical of a semi-detached, Victorian era home...
‘Two Tree House’ is designed for a young family on the steep terrain of a north facing escarpment in Australia.
In this Crown Heights brownstone, spaces are defined by built-in graphic millwork compositions and vivid three-dimensional color treatments ...

Nanna Ditzel Design Interview: An Image of Life

Although Ditzel is now among the most influential in Danish design, being a female designer in the 1950s and 1960s wasn’t easy

Frank Gehry Interview: Jump Into the Unknown

Watch the Canadian-American architect talk about his life, architecture and the world today in this in-depth video by Marc-Christoph Wagner for Louisiana Channel

Alejandro Aravena – To Design is to Prefer

In this personal video interview, the Chilean Pritzker Prize-winning architect Alejandro Aravena shares his unorthodox path to architecture

Inside the converted orangery that Muller Van Severen call home

Fien Muller and Hannes Van Severen—the creative duo behind Ghent-based design studio Muller Van Severen—are no strangers to having unknown visitors ...