Centurion, South Africa
The beautiful game of football is one of the most ancient and egalitarian sports in the world. Yet despite its global pervasiveness – as a function of advances in transportation, and then later air-travel and television – the sport retains its fervent appeal through the drama of its own internal politics and the charismatic antics of its rotating all-star cast of demigods.
In preparation for the FIFA World Cup of 2010, Soundspacedesign were appointed by the developers of Byl's Bridge, Centurus, to conceive and design an integrated sports academy, hotel and retail concept for Manchester United Soccer Schools and Nike that would service the broader catchment area of the Gauteng province.
The creation of a football-themed training park with attendant hospitality opportunities, licensed by football’s most loved brands Nike and Manchester United Soccer Schools, was thus an opportunity for us to operate in the heady world of football at the highest level. Although, unfortunately, the global credit crisis put paid to the ambitious scheme that eventually ballooned out of the original concept, which came to include a 200-bed five-star hotel and the national headquarters of Nike SA.
The concept revolved around games of strategy and contested turf, where possession and dominance of territory is key.m This idea played out on the ground floor particularly, the coterminosity of the retail and hospitality components became something of a challenge.
A somewhat Egyptian cosmology of deification of dead stars also grew into an important metaphor for the marketing of merchandise through sponsored athletes, and the whole scheme took on an ancient/modern dichotomy in its formal expression, implying that the complex has been there since the dawn of time, much like football has.
Housed under a monolithic and monumental roof, the hotel, Nike Headquarters, soccer training school, retail and restaurants present an iconic backdrop to the fields and gateway to the Byls Bridget mixed-use precinct. In terms of materiality, the gold and black of the building forms the backdrop to the inevitable red and white branding of its primary tenant Manchester United Merchandising Ltd.