Rafael Vinoly Architects’ masterplan and design for the City Football Academy emerged from the Manchester City Football Club’s desire to develop a world-leading campus to recruit and train young athletic talent, raise athlete performance, and consolidate its operations and global headquarters in a single flagship facility located across from its home stadium in East Manchester.
City Football Academy occupies a prominent position within the 200-acre Eastlands Regeneration Framework (March 2011), a sporting and entertainment development surrounding Manchester City Football Club’s Etihad Stadium, proposed by Manchester City Football Club, Manchester City Council and New East Manchester. Strategically located in the southeast corner of the Eastlands Regeneration Framework, City Football Academy has been positioned to take advantage of critical adjacencies with the existing Etihad Stadium and community facilities.
City Football Academy is a cutting-edge elite training facility located in the heart of East Manchester. Manchester City Football Club’s youth training academy invests in recruiting talented young local and international players. The academy, Club training and Club headquarter facilities were originally spread out over some ten miles. The City Football Academy grew out of Manchester City FC’s objectives to improve efficiency by consolidating the core programs of the Club. The Club envisioned a world-leading campus to raise athlete performance and standards through enhanced training, injury management, sports science, and research. The City Football Academy is located to the southwest of Manchester City FC’s home stadium, the Etihad Stadium and is linked via a pedestrian bridge.
In the northwest corner of the site, at the Alan Turning Way and Ashton New Road junction, is the “Northwest Development”. The Northwest Development includes new Headquarters and Media facilities for Manchester City Football Club, a 7,000-seat Stadium, Pedestrian Footbridge and new Public Plaza. The 7,000-seat Stadium (5,000 permanent seats in the east/west terraces, and 2,000 temporary standing positions in the north/south terraces) hosts matches for the Elite Development Squad, Academy, community and local schools. Integrated into the footprint of the Stadium is a new Headquarters for Manchester City Football Club, which includes state-of-the-art Media facilities.
At the centre of the campus is the free-standing Central Training Facility, combining First Team facilities, Academy facilities, two training pitches (including one indoor pitch), and shared support facilities in two semi-circular buildings enclosed by a circular wall that unifies the components into a single form. North west of the Central Training Facility is a 7,000-seat arena with the football club’s Global Headquarters and Media Centre—a transparent design that echoes the open nature of the Club to the community. These facilities are surrounded by 14 training pitches, one of which is reserved for shared community use.
The materiality of CFA required a bespoke approach to meet the aspirations of the football club, communicate the stepping-stone concept and to respond to the scale of the buildings and site. A special bullnose cladding profile was designed in collaboration with the façade manufacturer that aesthetically unified the facilities across the Academy whilst helping the unusually large buildings sit comfortably amongst the site and surroundings. Crisp detailing of junctions and curves helps create a seamless form that will stand the test of time. Careful consideration of variations in the material palette generates interest, texture and articulation of light and shade. Bold contemporary graphics create a sense of place and assist with wayfinding. The most public areas of the site around the Arena and HQ were designed to engage with the local community through the integration of artwork designed by local young people. Generous areas of landscaping and tree planting create a welcoming public realm. Throughout the scheme, robustness and durability was an important consideration for maintenance of appearance and to extend the life-span of the development.
The heavily remediated site was handed to the contractor in stages, with the Central Training Facility being the first building to start construction owing to its complexity. The site Energy Centre, substation and Facilities Management building followed the CTF, with specialist work on the 15 full-sized pitches taking place simultaneously. The Arena building incorporating the Manchester City Football Club HQ and those of the international operations was the last to complete. A staged handover of completed areas took place in time for the players to commence training for the 2014/15 Premier League and Champions League season.
Throughout the project, the importance of community engagement, local participation and sustainable legacy was critical. Building upon the Club’s community history and heritage, the development of accessible sport, leisure, cultural and educational initiatives that would help drive long term health and skills benefits proved important and key issues to the Club, to the city council and to local people. Local procurement, employment and apprenticeships in construction and permanent opportunities were driven throughout the project and are now reaping economic and social benefits.
Rafael Vinoly Architects, founded in 1983 and based in New York City, is an internationally renowned architectural firm with projects spanning six continents. The practice’s key trademark is its ability to reinvent institutional typologies and integrate the public realm into civic buildings. The practice’s atelier design intelligence coupled with the capabilities of a large, multi-disciplinary firm produces appropriate, creative responses to program requirements. We consider design an integrated field in which programming, function, implementation, engineering, economic feasibility, and cultural impact are not independent concerns or disciplines but elements which should be equally evaluated and addressed. The uniquely diverse work the firm has completed includes award-winning museums, performing arts centers, convention centers, athletic facilities, hotels, hospitals, laboratories, recreational venues, residential complexes, and commercial, industrial, and educational facilities.