The construction of the new Camp Nou will condition Barça’s future for the next 50 years.

President Josep Maria Bartomeu has repeated this phrase time and time again. It’s a project that the club has placed in the hands of the Japanese architecture firm Nikken Sekkei, who will collaborate with the Catalan firm Joan Pascual i Ramon Ausió Arquitectes in the proposal to change the urban planning of the Les Corts neighborhood. The new stadium will be the centerpiece of the €600-million Espai Barça project that the Executive Board wants to finish by 2021.

The club’s press statement says:

“The Nikken Sekkei + Pascual i Ausió Arquitectes proposal stands out for being open, elegant, serene, timeless Mediterranean and democratic.

It is also notable for its relationship with the environment, providing depth, creating shadows and making members the stars of the facade and of the open area at all times. The proposal presents a very subtle attempt to intervene in the environment to facilitate circulation and achieve diverse urban usage in the Barça Campus and guarantees a clear and safe construction.

In short, it is a unique solution, reproducing the characteristic vision of the grandstand and canopy, from the inside out, a silent and powerful tribute to the stadium built by Francesc Mitjans in 1957.”

This process started with the referendum in April 2014 in which the club’s members approved the Espai Barça project. The tender to select the projects for the new Camp Nou and the new Palau Blaugrana started in June 2015 with the publication of the regulations and selection criteria. The tender was run over two phases and was conducted in collaboration with the Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya. Twenty-six architecture groups (foreign company joined by a Catalan company) presented their bids for the new stadium and another 19 for the new indoor arena. All the proposals had to be based on the list of conditions published by the technical commission overseeing the tender, which was made up of the Espai Barça technical board, led by the director of the Patrimonial Area, William T. Mannarelli, and two architects from the Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya (COAC). In September 2015, the Espai Barça jury and technical committee selected, from the original 26 candidatures, eight teams for the definitive tender for the Camp Nou.

Unanimous decision to select Nikken Sekkei

The jury was made up of five members of FC Barcelona, four from the Board of Directors and one architect; three members of the Col·legi d’Arquitectes; and one representative of Barcelona City Council. The FC Barcelona members of the Espai Barça jury were Josep Maria Bartomeu, Susana Monje, Jordi Moix, Emili Rousaud and architect Juan Pablo Mitjans, son of Francesc Mitjans, architect of the Camp Nou. The Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya (COAC) was represented by its dean Lluís Comeron, and architects Arcadi Pla and Joan Forgas, while the Council was represented by its assistant city planning manager, Aurora López.

Nikken Sekkei – a firm with more than 100 years experience that opened an office in Barcelona last year – and Pascual i Ausió defeated the other three finalist teams that presented their projects for 45 minutes each on Tuesday. The decision was unanimous. The finalists were the offices BIG joined by Idom (the ones that made the new San Mamés) and the Catalan firm Jordi Badia Baas Arquitectura, the American firm HKS (Dallas Cowboys Stadium) joined by the Australian firm Cox and the Catalans Batlle i Roig, and the Populous office (Olympic Stadium London and the Emirates Stadium) who were joined by the companies Mias Arquitectes and RCR Arquitectes.

According to Diari Ara, at about 19:45 (local time), after all the projects had been presented, the deliberations started, even though an hour before that La Vanguardia had already announced the winner. The phones of the executives present started ringing. The BIG and Idiom team were presenting their project but they had to stop. There was confusion for some minutes. Nikken Sekkei was already being announced as a winner before the discussions had started. Bartomeu got mad at the leak and sent the General Manager, Ignasi Mestre, to talk to the communication director, Albert Roura, to issue a denial. Nikken Sekkei had been the favorite for weeks but the “the discussions haven’t started yet”, one of the people present was saying, astounded by what he had seen. “We were close to no decision being made,” he added.

On Wednesday morning, the club’s patrimonial area vice president Jordi Moix talked to Rac1 to deny that there had been a leak: “The fact that La Vanguardia published the report when the jury hadn’t even started talks was just circumstantial. The decision was made last night (Tuesday). The paper that published it before probably did it according to their opinion and took a chance on a possible resolution.”

One of the most prestigious architecture companies in Asia

Moix insisted that this wasn’t a leak, that it had been just speculation: “La Vanguardia speculated on the result, I myself didn’t decide until I had seen all four presentations. I would have preferred it if there hadn’t been any polls done before it.” He also said that the club hadn’t apologized to the three bidders that hadn’t won because they didn’t think they had done anything wrong: “We didn’t apologize to the other finalists because we made the decision at 21:00 last night.”

Nikken Sekkei is one of the most prestigious architecture companies in Asia and its emblematic work contains the Tokyo Dome, the Saitama Super Arena and the Niigata Stadium. Its Barcelona-based partners Joan Pascual i Ramon Ausió Arquitectes don’t have experience building sporting arenas, but they do have experience with remodeling existing buildings and constructing households.

In a few weeks the winning bid will present an open model of how the Camp Nou of the future will be and the technical documentation of the project, both of which will then be part of the exhibition open to the members for visiting in the Paris Hall of the Camp Nou, next to the exhibition of the new Palau Blaugrana.

After the season is over and the details of the Nikken Sekkei project have all been presented, the Col·legi de Periodistes will have an exhibition for the proposed designs for the new Camp Nou and the new Palau Blaugrana which didn’t win.

We continue next with the new characteristics of the stadium and its novelties.

The characteristics of the new stadium

The new stadium will have 105,000 seats – the current number of seats is 99,354, the biggest in Europe – which will all have a perfect view of the pitch (the first tier will be made steeper, the second tier shall be maintained but with improved accessibility and comfort, the third tier will be completed to reach the same height as the current lateral zone), all the stands will be completely covered by a new roof of more than 47,000 m2, the interior constructed area will be increased from 40,000 m2 to 104,000 m2, video scoreboards will use the latest high resolution digital technology with LED-type systems.

The spaces between seats will be improved and all the seats will be replaced with new and more ergonomic ones. In each tier there will be distributed places for people with reduced mobility and other impairments. Passageways will be replaced by more ample spaces where the absence of walls will be an important difference. Escalators will be added. The seats for rivals fans will have special access ways and internal circulation passages independent from the ones the local fans use.

The current concrete walls will be replaced by windows that will offer a certain transparency to the external part of the stadium. The external rings of the tiers will be visible from the outside, but the final form of this system of windows is yet to be defined, given the fact that it should serve as a sort of fence and as protection from the natural elements. The winters aren’t harsh in Barcelona, but wind and rain still have to be taken into account.

An underground parking space will be constructed between the new Camp Nou and the new Palau Blaugrana, accessible and open to the neighborhood. Initially there was talk about 5,000 parking spots, but this hasn’t been confirmed when the club announced the name of the winner on Tuesday.

There will be more restaurants, entertainment areas, and other service areas yet to be specified for the members. There will also be more VIP zones, with the club saying that there will be 88 VIP boxes and four superboxes. There have also been rumors of a pitch club with 1,000 seats. These details will probably be more defined when the full model of the stadium is presented in a few weeks.

Barça estimates that right now it takes in between €25 and €28 million each season from hospitality, VIP boxes, business services, rentals for events… Arsenal with its Emirates Stadium has an income of around €80 million from these concepts, half of which are thanks to VIP seats and hospitality packages. Barça expects an increase of approximately €35 million from this particular source of income once the new stadium is completed. Right now the Camp Nou has 2,203 VIP seats, half of what the Santiago Bernabéu has and a quarter of what the Emirates Stadium has.

According to Mundo Deportivo, FC Barcelona decided to not have cinemas or shops (except for FCBotiga with the club’s official products) in the Espai Barça due to the excessive complexity of the municipal permits required for this. The club is planning on having a number of restaurants, a hotel and maximizing the income from the spaces available in the new Camp Nou and the New Palau Blaugrana for all kinds of activities. The new Palau will be very useful for this, as it can host concerts, theater plays or presentations of brands thanks to the bigger tier that would allow it to be transformed into an Auditorium.

In the summer of 2014, Barça hired the man who manages the construction of the new house of the blaugrana club. Bill Mannarelli gave up the vice presidency of the Icon Venue Group, one of the three companies that advised the club during the first stage of the project, and became the ideologue of Espai Barça. Along with him, some 20 people started working on turning the project that was approved by the club members that April into reality.

Fours years of work, starting in 2017

The new Camp Nou is scheduled to finish in 2021. There will be four years of works being done that aren’t expected to affect the team, because the integral remodel of the stadium will be done in part, in different phases and it will be accelerated during the months when the team isn’t playing in the summer.

If there isn’t a problem with obtaining the licenses and the alterations of the Metropolitan General Plan (MGP), the works are scheduled to start in June 2017 after next season ends. It’s a complex project that is meant to be done while the stadium is still being used. People working for the club have always said that the trouble for the matchgoing fans will be minimal and that all season ticket holders (around 85,000) will have a seat guaranteed during the four years of works. This is the big challenge. The idea is that after the number of seats will be increased all the members that put themselves on the waiting list before 2010 will be granted a season ticket.

Currently Barça is in conversations with the Barcelona City Hall to obtain the approval for the project, after holding meeting with all the political groups that are a part of the city council. The alteration of the MGP is a procedure that will take months, even though all the parts involved are optimistic and think that before June 2017, when the work on the first tier has to start, the project that will change the Les Corts neighborhood will have been greenlighted. Sources close to Mayor Ada Colau say that for the MGP alteration to be approved “there needs to be a great consensus between neighbors, and a social and political consensus.” This is what is being discussed now.

Introducing the New Camp Nou - How are the club going to pay for the stadium? How about the Palau Blaugrana? Here is part II of our in-depth look.

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Sources: FC Barcelona, Mundo Deportivo, Sport, Diari Ara and Palco 23.