Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium: Backgrounder
Controversy remains among some of the city’s naysayers over whether Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium should have been built. Ivor Daniel, former president of the KwaZulu-Natal Institute of Architects, gives some perspectives.
By Wanda Hennig
This piece was commissioned to be published in an eThekwini-sponsored coffee table book on the Moses Mabhida Stadium as a sidebar to an interview with lead architect Gerhard le Roux.
When South Africa first bid for the 2010 World Cup and would-be host cities announced their stadium plans, Durban’s was for an expanded Kings Park (rugby stadium).
“It’s a stadium that has been around since the early 60s and once South Africa won the bid the city reviewed its initial proposal, given Kings Park’s safety and other limitations,” says Ivor Daniel, at the time president of the KwaZulu-Natal Institute of Architects and a participant in the contest to build an iconic new stadium that ensued.
“The city made the decision to demolish the old Kings Park Soccer Stadium and put out a call for design submissions for an iconic new stadium for Durban that would be a lot more than just a stadium.”
According to the city’s design criteria the new stadium would be a cultural and sporting landmark; an inspirational venue for players, spectators and visitors; a symbol by which Durban would become known; and an icon that would attract local and international tourists. And then there were requirements related to sustainability, income generation and budget.
“Part of the brief was that the stadium should be for sports other than football and events beyond the World Cup. The Olympics, for example. It needed to take in an athletic track and to accommodate various other sports disciplines (including cricket and rugby). The focus had to be on maximum returns,” says Daniel.
The city allocated R5 million for the contest, says Daniel. “Six teams were invited to submit their stadium designs for adjudication. The team chosen to build the new stadium would get the contract on a fee basis; the other five teams would each be paid R1 million for their submission (to cover costs, including international travel).
All participating teams included local and international expertise, says Daniel. “Part of what you wanted to show the city was the experience your consortium had to offer.”
The teams had “probably a maximum of five to six weeks to come up with the design. It was a hugely restricted time frame.”
An iconic building and a successful stadium
Daniel’s consortium was one of the five R1 million runner-up ‘winners’. He has no sour grapes and calls Moses Mabhida “an iconic building and a successful stadium. On whatever basis it was chosen as better than the others, it’s a winning design and should be celebrated as such.”
He adds: “Durban was the only South African city that went the route of paying consultants to produce alternative schemes. It was chosen and not imposed on Durban. I think the city has to be applauded for its methodology of inviting and spending money looking at alternatives.”
It was a noteworthy attempt to ensure the city got a stadium that fulfilled its requirements, he says. “The process resulted in what is, I think, a very fine building. And that’s what is so fantastic about an icon isn’t it? It’s an animated concept that works both as a building and as a representation of the concept.”