Three bounces of the ball and then the serve. The split-step, the takeback, the swing, the return... the body’s muscle memory kicks in. Anyone who plays tennis, as well as anyone who watches it, knows that it’s a sport like no other. Uncovering your fears and weaknesses, it’s a game as much as a journey of self-discovery. That’s why the players who succeed are often those who’ve worked out how to be in the constant now, both on the court and off it. Some people even say that tennis is pure meditation, and that the mental skills acquired by practicing it help improve awareness in general. In other words, exactly what growing numbers of people are looking for today through mindfulness practices. In fact, success as a tennis player largely boils down to one simple concept: what matters is the now. Try putting this into practice and you’ll soon find yourself literally lost – like a goldfish that forgets what it did a few seconds ago.
For all these reasons, the place where tennis players play is a mystical and magical environment, a location with a unique mood and atmosphere. While runners can run almost anywhere and soccer players can kick a ball about on almost any patch of grass, in tennis, the place, the surface, and the weather are all crucial. Aware of this, architect Benedetto Camerana, who designed the facilities for the ATP Finals, took a long time developing the masterplan and finding the best solutions to accommodate both the audience and players. For five years beginning November 14, 2021 – the inaugural date of the tournament’s period in Italy, which will see the participation of the world’s top eight tennis players – Turin will be in the spotlight as the host of this international event. This is a unique opportunity to promote the city to an international audience as well as transform it with forward-looking projects and sustainable architecture.
Camerana – part of the tendering group of Arriva, Camerana & Partners, KPMG, Nielsen Sports, Politecnico di Torino, and lead member AWE International Group – looked after the structures, logistics, and transport. And he set out to get the whole city involved, creating a mood of open participation in the project, announcing in Torino Magazine, for example, that all of Turin’s facilities will have a role to play as part of the Finals. This is very different from what happened in London over past years. This year’s tournament is being held under the respective banners of sustainability and citywide entertainment, with temporary pavilions being set up so people can experience the great event every day. This is an important challenge because, as the architect says, “there are things that will keep things in the city.”
So, what are the structures for the 2021 ATP Finals like? They’re partly inspired by the Oval and the Hockey 1 sports complex, designed by Arata Isosaki and Pier Paolo Maggiora for the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, which we looked at in The Speedskating Arena at Lingotto in Turin, published by The Plan Editions. Let’s take a closer look at Camerana’s two projects: the transformation of the Pala Alpitour indoor arena, designed by Pritzker winner Arata Isozaki, and two pavilions in Piazza San Carlo.
Mainly because of the layout of the city and the venue selected, the ATP in London was held in a kind of bubble – a magnificent and prestigious venue but also an isolated one, where nothing much went on apart from the tournament. In Turin, on the other hand, the whole city seems to be involved in the Nitto ATP Finals. And Turin is well suited to this kind of event. It’s medium in size, has proven experience in hosting international events (such as the Olympics), and is a city with a great sporting tradition. And it’s significant that it was chosen in preference to cities of the caliber of Tokyo and Singapore, which also competed to host the event.
The area around the Pala Alpitour is the most involved, since it has facilities that can be rethought for the event, such as a swimming pool, the Casa del Teatro Ragazzi e Giovani theater, and the Circolo della Stampa sports complex. Located close to the main venue but also around the city, the temporary structures are striking, almost on a par with those built for the Cultural Olympics, held here in 2006. One of the objectives of the project is to give back the most possible to the city through enthusiasm, entertainment, and business opportunities. A fundamental aspect has been the approach to the new structures, which have been built to last five years, can be dismantled and reassembled, and are exclusively designed for the Finals, including the panoramic walkway that takes the athletes to the courts.
Watching an ATP match isn’t like watching a basketball or volleyball game. It’s all about the audience’s perspective and position, especially when it comes to the best seats. Camerana understands the dynamics of international tournaments and has therefore included in the masterplan dedicated areas for the media, lounges, and spaces for guests, sponsors, and corporate visitors. The same applies to hospitality and catering, with spaces created for 1000–1500 people. In the end, Turin will have one of the best tennis facilities in the world.
As Camerana reiterated in his pre-event interviews, one of the biggest challenges for the project was the environmental one. And this challenge will continue after the event. Working with Turin’s polytechnic was fundamental in this regard, with the project distinguished by its circular economy, with low energy and water consumption. Recyclable materials with low CO2 emissions were used for the structures, along with integration with renewable energy sources. The goal of zero energy impact seems to have been achieved, with the Turin Finals to be the first ever to be played in complete harmony with the green economy.
Cover image: ©marcoschiavone, courtesy Benedetto Camerana