Arch. Fulvio Giraldi, GAA – Giraldi Associati Architetti | Arch. Gino Zavanella, GAUarena
Partner: Invest in Tuscany


We must imagine the future of our stadiums and we should ask ourselves about the state of the sports facilities in Italy and how to exploit this emergency phase to intervene and finally have adequate sports facilities for a country like ours. Football in Italy is one of the most important movements in the world, but our structures remained stopped at the early 90s; in this lies the great development opportunity that presents itself today to Italian and foreign investors.

In Italy most of the sports facilities currently in use were built between the 1930s and 1960s and are subject to restrictions according to the provisions of Legislative Decree 42/2004, known as the Code of Cultural and Landscape Heritage, as classified architectural monuments. We find examples of this throughout the national territory, such as football and athletics stadiums, sports halls for the practice of disciplines such as wrestling, volleyball, basketball, as well as the Olympic training centers and the training and selection centers of the federations.

They are mostly fascinating concrete structures, examples of visionary and innovative engineering and architecture, often, unfortunately, in mediocre or even very poor maintenance conditions. To preserve them, we must keep them efficient, so that they are able to continue hosting the activities for which they were designed and built 90 or 60 years ago. This is certainly not an easy but fundamental theme, because the survival of these monuments is linked to the fact that they remain usable. They will have no life, as monuments for sightseeing only. Nobody will make a trip to Rome to visit the Flaminio stadium, as millions of people do today to see the Colosseum.

These structures, intended as a pure monument, have no economic sustainability, would not generate enough funds for maintenance and in the absence of public investment grants would inevitably deteriorate until they disappear. They must therefore become a place for shows, entertainment, hospitality and commercial activities, active 7 days a week with a high level of services in all sectors. These activities are absolutely necessary to ensure the comfort of the stadium user and the attractiveness of any investors. The stadium also assumes the fundamental function of meeting place and social gathering place for the whole community, being equipped with spaces and equipment set up for the reception and leisure of all age groups. To do this there is a need for a design that has the dual function of respecting the existing by integrating it with the changed functional and performance needs. The desire to start a process of modernizing a stadium will entail not only a enhancement of such an important architectural asset of the city, but also a substantial improvement in the impact that the stadium itself will have on the surrounding urban context.

Today we may have the opportunity to change course; transforming the crisis situation caused by the Coronavirus epidemic into an opportunity, reorganizing the processes that have so far made private investment difficult in stadiums and sports facilities notified as architectural monuments. There are strong private interests in investing in the world of Italian football but investors have to face complicated bureaucratic processes and the uncertainty of project analysis times. This is mainly due to the overlapping of competences by public actors, municipalities, regions, “Sovrintendenze”. The private investor only needs certain times and rules; it would be crucial for monuments to determine which institution is in charge of establishing the binding opinion, unifying all the opinions collected by the different institutions in a single act.

The challenge for architects is hard but at the same time fascinating: to make the “monument” coexist with the demand for safety, services and profitability. It is possible to make projects that respecting the fundamental protection constraints of our monuments transform them into contemporary architectures, able to meet the investor’s needs, generating the economic sustainability and the profits necessary to support it and maintaining the historical memory and common identity that is contained in it. The actual imposed “pause” could represent the opportunity to carry out renovations of these structures by taking advantage of the period of holding games behind closed doors.

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