Japoma Sports Complex weaving in Cameroonian craft traditions ahead of Nations Cup
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Japoma Sports Complex weaving in Cameroonian craft traditions ahead of Nations Cup

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Ahead of 2019’s Africa Cup of Nations football tournament, the architect behind Douala, Cameroon’s new 50,000 seater stadium and sports park, Japoma Sports Complex, has told CLAD about the stadium's ergonomic structure that will bring in the very fabric of the culture of the city around it.

Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon – the host nation for the 2019 tournament – is famed for its street craftspeople and, as such, Japoma will pay homage to this time-honoured tradition in every element of its aesthetic.

Aecom lead architect Luciana Di Domenico told CLAD: “The main stadium itself will take the form of a woven basket, the like of which can be found on the streets of Douala every day, being crafted by locals tradespeople.”

Aecom hired a team of cultural advisors, who studied the work of these local craftspeople, as well as their interactions with each other and the public. As such, the stadium’s elliptical, whirlwind-like outer-shape reflects the creative process and thus the creations of these traders on Douala’s streets.

Di Domenico also noted that the stadium’s colour system is based on the bead and fabric creations found on Douala’s many market stalls. On a visit to the city, the architect noticed a recurring pattern of four predominant colours among these creations – blue, green, yellow and ochre. As such, the four zones of the stadium (north, south, east and west) will each have a relative colour coding, which fades as the zones merge to create a complete colour wheel.

The main stadium concourse will sit in between the upper and lower stands and be the main point of entry, meaning that those with disabilities or mobility issues will have access at grade with no need of extra vertical cores connecting the two tiers.

As well as the upcoming football tournament, a sense of legacy had to be included in the main stadium’s design. As such, it will house an athletics track around the football pitch, meaning the stadium is future proofed with the ability to hold track and field events. Beyond that, the stadium will be able to host concerts and similar events.

Seating inside the Japoma, meanwhile, has been planned with sight lines in mind. Supporters in the stadium will be able to see all of the action unfolding before them, with Di Domenico saying that “sight lines were very important to us when designing how the seating will work within the stadium itself”.

Another user experience and comfort aspect that the Japoma will cater for is rain coverage and ventilation. Douala has a tropical climate, sitting in the Tropic of Cancer as it does, and experiences extreme humidity and an average annual rainfall of 3,702mm. By contrast, New York City experiences 1140mm annually while London experiences 583.6mm. With these extreme conditions in mind, the stadium will be self-ventilating, with an opening the whole way around under the roof allowing air to flow freely, while the roof will cover all seating areas so as to keep supporters dry.

Beyond the main stadium, the Japoma Sports Complex will also be home to a sports hall, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, training fields for football and athletics, a clubhouse, restaurants and a landscaped area. Legacy was of extreme pertinence in the design and Di Domenico sees the project as a place that the people of Douala will use for years to come for leisure activities.

Perhaps the most intriguing point of all of Di Domenico’s, though, is his assertion on the stadium’s general ethos: “In a stadium design industry currently dominated by discussions about technology, climate controlled seats, moving roofs and the like, the Japoma Sports Complex is in counter-tendency," he said.

"Its genuine design is enriched by Cameroonian culture and is based on appropriate technologies, stadium functionality and tailored for the local community."

The Japoma stadium has maybe been designed as a direct reaction to Western ideas of what modern really means, with all of the gadgetry and frills associated therein. Or maybe it is just that it reflects its West African surrounding so fittingly that it seems this way.

Construction is ongoing and is on course to finish well in time for the 2019 football tournament. Turkish builder Yenigun Construction is currently carrying out the build.

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