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Interview: Christopher Lee, architect of Dunas Stadium and London 2012

Architect from Populous talks about the Natal project and also the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games

Christopher Lee, architect at Populous (credit: Populous/Divulgação)
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Rafael Massimino - São Paulo
Posted on 13/09/2010 14:28 h
updated on 21/09/2010 16:56 h

Australian architect Christopher Lee is a senior executive at Populous, an office with world activities, responsible for the master plan of the London Olympic Games in 2012. In Brazil, Mr. Lee co-ordinates the project for the Dunas Stadium, which will be built in Natal especially for the 2014 World Cup.

Check out excerpts of the interview granted to the 2014 Portal in August, during the Sports Business event.

Tell us a bit about the participation of Populous in the Dunas Stadium project.
We have developed the architectural project, under the supervision of Buro Happold, an international structural engineering company. CDC Arquitetos is involved in the project for some components of the stadium, such as interior design and surrounding spaces, such as the hospitality tents. The Stadia Group is managing the project and also a series of consultancy services.

What aspects will make the stadium stand out?
Our intention is to build the most perfect stadium in South America. The concept adds value to intimacy, the atmosphere, closeness to the playing field. I like to go to Maracanã and feel the enthusiasm of the fans watching Flamengo play. My idea is that of recreating this passion in a new stadium.

Have you ever thought about the sustainability of the arena, especially from the financial standpoint?
Sustainability should be seen as a whole. It is obvious that construction elements will come in to it, and our stadium will have LEED certification. However, the issue of economic feasibility is just as important. We seek to design a stadium with a capacity which is suitable for the World Cup, while also incorporating dismountable stands. Thus, after the event, the capacity of the stadium can be between 30 thousand and 35 thousand people, which is ideal for the city. In addition, the stadium has been designed to also hold other events, and one part of the lower ring is raised, to allow the access of lorries carrying equipment.

Estádio das Dunas project, in Natal (credit: Populous/Divulgação)

Natal is the only host city without a bidding process for the stadium. How has this influenced the project?
First of all, the bidding process will be launched very soon. Next, I have worked in many different countries, and things are not that different in Brazil. Indeed, each location has its peculiarities. I have recently finished an assignment in New Delhi, India, and this is a place where we really had to face bureaucracy of mammoth proportions.

But doesn’t the delay cause an increase in costs, or reworking?
Of course schedules are important. However, it is also easy for one to underestimate the huge task that our client is carrying out in Natal, and not only in the construction of the stadium. Here we are talking about airports, hotels and infrastructure in general. Looking from afar, one may think that things are going slowly, but the quantity of work involved is enormous.

In London, the Olympic Stadium will be ready six months in advance, which creates a reference point for other projects.
It is fantastic, and also uncommon, that the Olympic Stadium is six months ahead of schedule, considering a total schedule of two and a half years. In London, we had an excellent subcontractor and we also knew our team very well. It was with this team that we constructed the Emirates Stadium, in London. WE had an excellent working system, which made things that much easier.

Did you come to Brazil, say, eyeing the arenas for 2016?
We set up an office in Rio de Janeiro which, at the moment, has only one person working. We hope that our Rio de Janeiro operation may expand with the Olympic Games approaching. Populous has participated in nine Olympic Games. We are deeply involved with London, having prepared the master plan and also the most important stadium, among others. We are very interested in transferring our knowledge And yes, indeed, we are meeting the right people in the committees to see how we can help.

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