The field of dreams – and the story behind it
Originally slated to host the 2019 Club World Cup that was duly won by Liverpool, the Education City Stadium required a few more months of preparation before it was finally unveiled on June 15, 2020.
After dry runs staging domestic fixtures for the Qatar Stars League, this 45,350-capacity stadium was one of two venues to be used for the 2020 Club World Cup that was also pushed back, this time because of the pandemic.
When it was finally played in February 2021, crowds were limited to the hundreds and low thousands – under 8,000 watched eventual winners Bayern Munich beat Al Ahly in the semi-final and Mexico’s Tigres UANL to claim the trophy.
As the the Education City Stadium and the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium both sit in the settlement of Al Rayyan adjoining Doha to the west, logistics amid Covid restrictions were made that much easier.
The Education City Stadium was given its first proper run-out on the international stage for the Arab Cup in December 2021. It was then that spectators in serious numbers – an official figure of 47,813 was recorded for Qatar’s first group game against bitter local rivals Bahrain – got to see this polished gem created by the UK-Spanish architectural team of Fenwick Iribarren.
For the whole concept behind this green arena – dramatically green in seating colour, sustainably green in approach – is that of, their words, a Diamond in the Desert. Jagged triangular patterns abound, around the wraparound façade that glows multiple colours after dark, in the opening to the roof that lets in great swathes of sky, and in the design of the lower seating sections that will remain here after the upper half is spirited away post-World Cup for other beneficiaries.
That four-word hook, Diamond in the Desert, convinced the event’s overseers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, of Fenwick Iribarren’s winning concept. They would then be hired for another World Cup venue, the even more revolutionary 974 Stadium.
One problem with the notion in this case is, technically speaking, in the name – this isn’t desert. The Education City Stadium is in Education City, a thriving, sprawling university quarter where no fewer than eight notable institutions from the US, UK and France each have a branch campus.
Extending for 12 square kilometres, five times the size of Monaco, Education City has its own hotel and golf course, national Science & Technology Park and Medical & Research Center.
And, after the World Cup quarter-final on December 9 and the removal vans have disappeared, students will have their own sports stadium, of around 20,000 capacity. Fenwick Iribarren may have used a little artistic licence with the stadium name but they’ve been in the business long enough to know what prestigious clients are looking for.
Founded in 1990, riding the wave of urban transformations around Spain, Mark Fenwick and Javier Iribarren expanded their remit from skyscrapers to malls and then to a niche but extremely sought-after genre: football stadiums.
Starting out with Espanyol’s award-winning new venue out towards Barcelona airport, this Madrid-based company accepted commissions for national stadiums in Norway and Gibraltar, as well as for Valencia’s new home, a long-running saga only recently given a realistic completion date.
Given the fiery hoops one imagines Fenwick Iribarren has had to jump through to please this particularly capricious client on the Mediterranean – the Valencia stadium was originally due to open for the 2009-10 season – creating two pioneering yet temporary arenas in the Gulf must have seemed like child’s play.
Having created the concept, Fenwick Iribarren then handed the actual design delivery to BDP Pattern. This partly London-based team, whose designs “achieve a balance between the man-made environment and the natural world”, are also stadium specialists.
As well as creating the nearby Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, BDP Pattern has a portfolio of upcoming proposals including Everton’s new home at Bramley Moore Dock, a reconfigured City Square by the Etihad in Manchester and a stunning look for Royal Ascot. The light Arabic touches around the façade that you might appreciate as you approach the Education City Stadium will probably have been engineered on a drawing board in London EC1.
In this part of the world, the aesthetics of construction are governed by one crucial facility: the ability to reflect sunlight. Inspired by Islamic architectural heritage, the Education City Stadium refracts the sun’s rays but, something fans of France, Portugal and Tunisia may appreciate during early-evening games, allows dusk to transform the exterior into a kaleidoscope of ever-changing colours. The passage of the sun was also taken into account when the roof was designed, making late-afternoon games equally memorable.
And, to underline those green credentials, almost a third of the material used to build the arena was recycled.
Going to the stadium – tips and timings
Given that it usually serves thousands of students every day, Education City has its own metro station, making this an easy venue to access by public transport. The so-called Last Mile, the transit area between station and stadium, is particularly striking, set on two levels.
Education City stadium is on the green line heading west from town, directly linked with Al Bidda and Doha’s main fan zone in Al Bidda Park.
The full schedule – who's playing and when
The draw has bestowed a complete mixed bag of fixtures onto the Education City Stadium, where France, Portugal, Uruguay and Denmark all appear, along with Tunisia, South Korea, Ghana and South Korea. Fans of the Group F winners (Belgium? Croatia? Morocco? Canada??) will be pleased with the easy hop on the metro here for the first knock-out game. The stadium concludes its hosting duties with a quarter-final.
November 22, 4pm: Denmark-Tunisia (Group D)
November 24, 4pm: Uruguay-South Korea (Group H)
November 26, 4pm: Poland-Saudi Arabia (Group C)
November 28, 4pm: South Korea-Ghana (Group H)
November 30, 6pm: Tunisia-France (Group D)
December 2, 6pm: South Korea-Portugal (Group H)
December 6, 6pm: Round of 16, 1st Group F-2nd Group E
December 9, 6pm: QF, Winner Match 53-Winner Match 54
All times are local. CET is 2hrs behind Qatar, UK 3hrs behind.