Soccer City Stadium: the African 'calabash' with ArcelorMittal steel

For the World Cup 2010 the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa was completely revamped. Now known by the name of Soccer City Stadium, it hosted the most important events of the FIFA World Cup. ArcelorMittal supplied steel for this new iconic building with the form of an African calabash.

Detailed information

Architectural concept & site

The form of its new roof is inspired by an African calabash, a symbol for African rural life and the most recognisable object to represent what people all over the world would automatically associate with the African continent. At the same time it symbolises the 'melting pot of African cultures'. This design by Boogertman & Partner, with Bob van Bebber and Piet Boer as a lead team, was selected from a series of concepts in 2006.

It is situated in the outskirts of Soweto, at Nasrec, where it sits on a raised podium on top of which a 'pit of fire' is located. The pot sits in a depression which is the pit of fire as it if were being naturally fired.

The refurbishment of the stadium went along with a significant upgrade of the surrounding neighbourhood. South of the stadium a transportation hub and a pedestrian mall have been constructed, new roads, parks and walkways were built and new lighting, signage, surveillance cameras, and public amenities were installed.

The construction work conducted on the existing stadium was actually a revamping that consisted of a partial demolition, extension, rebuilding, and refurbishment.

The scope of works included the following actions:

- The old stadium was partially demolished.
- The existing grandstand was upgraded.
- The grandstand all around the stadium was extended in order to increase the seating capacity to 88 958.
- New offices and changing rooms were constructed.
- The lower embankment was rebuilt to improve view lines and comfort.
- The upper part of the lower embankment was raised to form a secondary tier, making it a 3-tiered stadium.
- The main lower concourse constitutes the access to lower and upper embankment. The skybox levels and upper tiers are accessible via eight three-dimensional ramp structures built inside the facade.
- A new players’ tunnel and basement were added.
- A new, fully clad roof envelops the stadium containing modern lighting.
- The stadium is equipped with new PA systems and big screens.


The new roof is cantilevered from an impressive triangular spatial ring truss, covered by a sand-coloured PTFE membrane resembling the shades of the sandy mine dumps. The bottom of the truss is covered with a perforated PTFE mesh membrane, creating a smooth under-slung ceiling. 12 off-shutter concrete shafts, each 40 m high, support the triangle spatial ring truss. These shafts are subjected to huge tension and compressive forces; therefore, they are provided with tension piles anchored in the bedrock.


Thousands of glass-fibre reinforced concrete panels in eight different colours and two textures make up the external facade. Fit together in a patchwork, they curve around the cantilevered roof and resemble the shades of a calabash: dark at the bottom and lighter at the top linking to the colour of the roof membrane. The 'pot' seems punctured - this effect is achieved by open and glazed panels - suggesting a pattern that arises when the interior is illuminated at night and the stadium appears to glitter.

The facade is articulated by 10 vertical slots that represent the geographical alignment with the nine other 2010 stadiums and the Berlin Stadium, the main venue of the 2006 World Cup. These lines represent the 'Road to the Final'. The scores of each game at each venue will be placed in pre-cast concrete panels on the podium and this way will prove a full history of the 2010 World Cup. The slots in the facades and the panels on the podium are connected by grey lines running through the orange seats.

The support of the facade is made of 3-dimensional, curved off-shutter concrete columns which are inclined and have a horizontal eccentricity of 6.5m in relation to its base. The concrete structure extends to fourteen meters above the podium level from where it extends up to the spatial ring.

Facts & numbers

Architects: Boogertman Urban Edge and Partners in partnership with Populous
Engineering: P.D. Naidoo & Associates (PDNA)
General contractor: Joint Venture Grinaker/ BAM International/HBM  (Netherlands)
Budget: 300 milion euros
Surface: 65 000 m2
3500 workers (peak)
Concrete: PDNA Joburg
Concrete volume : 80 000 m3
14 000 precast elements
Rebar: 9000 tn
Brickwork: 80 000 m2
Steel roofing: Engineering Schlaich Bergermann & Partners SBP Stuttgart
Structural steel for roof: 7800 tn
Structural steel tie beams: 1500 tn
Roof fabric: 54 000 m2
Roof assembly and erection: 9 months
Piles: 1350
Facade: Fiber C by Rieder Elements Austria
Cladding: 38 000 m2 - 1 year assembling

Project information

  • Johannesburg
  • South Africa
  • Architect:
    Boogertman Urban Edge and Partners in partnership with Populous
  • 2007-2010
  • Client:
    City of Johannesburg
  • Engineering firm:
    Concrete works: PDNA, Joburg; Roof: SBP, Stuttgart
  • Contractor:
    Joint venture Grinaker LTA SA/Bam International - HBM Netherlands
  • Photographer:
    Silvia Scalzo, ArcelorMittal + Boogertman Urban Edge and Partners in partnership with Populous