Dalian Sports Center

The Dalian Sports Center, located in the Ganjingzi district of Dalian, Liaoning Province, China, sits on a flat, 203 acre site. Surrounding the Center will be new satellite city, currently under construction. It replaced a rabble of unregulated, polluting fringe workshops.

Client and program

At the start of the project, the Xinghai Bay Authority overseeing the project, made it clear that this had to be essentially a Dalian inspired project, at par with any Olympic facility on the planet. Our client demanded this was not to be another generic project, so abundant in China. Its price tag was to be 1.5 billion USD The program consists of a masterplan capable of giving cohesion to the planned venues, all the while integrating with the future satellite city and its planned transportation system. The program called for 5 major venues. The heart of the project is an 18,000 seat arena, used for indoor sports events and concerts. Surrounding the arena is a 61,000- seat soccer stadium, a 9600-seat tennis stadium, a 5000 seat natatorium, and a 3000 seat baseball stadium. Supporting the Center is a 400 room 5 star hotel, called ‘the Media Center’, an indoor tennis building, and general athlete training and office buildings.

About Dalian

We have done several projects in Dalian, it is a great place for architects to do meaningful work, improving its livability. Dalian feels like tough city, with heavy industrial sites where ships and locomotives are being build, with large chemical plants occasionally feared by the population. It was the location of China’s worse oil spill in 2010. Beyond its well kept city center it is a fairly typical Chinese city.

Under its skin, Dalian is unique in many ways. It has a history of world trade spanning hundreds of years; it has been contested by warring Japanese, Chinese, and European armies for centuries until 1945.

Dalian has overcome and has learned to live with political upheaval, massive industrialization, and has now grown into one of china’s most important economic assets. It wants to show off its tenacity and success.

It is diverse: as it lays opposite South Korea there is a sizable Korean population. Hotel lobbies are filled with Spanish, German, a few American business men organizing exports; middle managers overseeing huge infrastructure projects.

True Dalian is a factory employed workforce living in repetitive modest neighborhoods of simple walkup apartments. In these neighborhoods, the affinity to sports reigns supreme. It binds the communities. Soccer is wildly popular, and Dalian has both revered male and female teams. Athletic events of all kinds are popular, and the competitive Dalian spirit wants it athletes to be recognized internationally.

The architecture

This back ground is what gave rise to the concept for the Dalian Sports Center. We were searching for something that would capture the spirit of everyday people. We needed a concept which speaks to emotion more than to the mind. The essence of sport as a collective community identity.

Our concept became one that captures the dynamic, kinetic movement of human speed in competition. The masterplan and architecture gives form to athletic muscles, like tendons creating long, graceful lines. The masterplan is based on a swirl of elevated promenades connecting 5 major venues with a yet to be finished satellite city. Individual venues are further overlaid with additional meaning. In the center of the swirl, shaped as if caught in a vortex, is the arena, an 18000 person marvel of long-span engineering, and an impressive example of local building capacity. The natatorium, designed largely by a surfing member of the architect’s studio, resembles a giant wave. The soccer stadium has a rotating frisbee- like serpentine curving skin made of incredibly sophisticated ETFE bubbles. The tennis stadium is surrounded by huge open metal screens, to be overgrown with greenery, creating a lush environment to watch the matches.

Having had the experience of dining with the builders, all the while enjoying their local brand of Chinese white wine, we could see first hand the implementation of sophisticated systems. Many of the materials used were fabricated or finished on site; special techniques, developed on the spot, are employed to deal with typhoons and heavy snow loads; Winter heating has been kept to a minimum thanks to judicious architectural massing keeping in mind solar angles. The engineers further developed a unique system of heat supply and refrigeration systems using exhaust air heat recovery, under bleacher air intakes and radiant warming.

Since its opening in 2013 the Sports Center has been busy non stop. It hosted many events of the National Games of China, as well as other soccer, ice hockey, basketball, gymnastics, and swimming competitions. The arena is now Dalian’s premier rock concert venue.


The project was designed under the leadership of Jack Bouvrie when he was Design Director at Nadel Architects. Jack Bouvrie is currently partner at Super 3 Studio, inc.

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