James Goldthorpe – My Favourite Building

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What is it?

Emirates Stadium, home to Arsenal Football Club.

Any honourable mentions?

I almost picked York Minster, which is completely beautiful, and could equally have gone for Exeter Cathedral. I also think the National Theatre is unfairly maligned.

Dishonourable mentions?

The new Spurs stadium, which has been dubbed ‘The Toilet Seat’, is pretty bad, but that may be my tribal loyalties talking…

Do you think that’s an obvious choice – or do you reckon it’s a hidden gem?

As you might have guessed, I am a passionate Arsenal fan, so an obvious choice in many ways. However, I also think the Emirates is a fascinating building in terms of what is says about football and culture. Rising unexpectedly from North London’s residential streets, the stadium’s size and centrality to the areas makes it seem astonishingly important. If an alien from Mars were to land on Holloway Road and find their way to the Emirates, they would surely think that this vast building was of some huge symbolic importance to us.  I have often thought that football stadiums are the cathedrals of the modern Europe in this regard. The Emirates is the perfect example of this.

Can you tell us a little about its history?

It was built on a former waste disposal site and received planning approval in 2000. It cost £390 million; roughly the same cost as Man City’s back four. It opened in 2006 and the first game was against Ajax.

What about your history with the building – what was your first memory of it?

The first time I went to see a game at the Emirates was a defeat to Manchester United in 2007. Awe-struck and disappointed in equal measure, I was 1 of a 60,163 strong crowd which remains the record attendance at the stadium to this day.

Is it the inside or outside that does it for you?

The distinction between inside and outside is slightly different with football grounds as the interior is “outside” in some ways; but I love the way the Emirates looks at night when you approach on foot, the floodlights halo-like and brighter than the shop-signs and headlights at street level.

What’s interesting about the building from a lawyer’s perspective?

The naming of the stadium is quite interesting from a legal and commercial perspective. The Emirates is one of the first iconic stadiums to be known through a sponsors’ name from day one. It’s strange because the word has almost detached itself from the airline and is, for me, entirely associated with the building. The question of what will happen when the naming rights to the stadium are sold is interesting; would another name catch on, or would it always be ‘The Emirates’ regardless of the commercial entity lending its logo?

Nothing’s perfect though, is there anything you would change about it?

On the middle tier of the stadium, a banner denotes every major trophy Arsenal have won in their decorated history. There’s not enough of them.

Do you think it will last?

I’m not sure. Arsenal’s last stadium, Highbury, was home to the club from 1913 to 2006. Assuming the Emirates goes the same way as Highbury, I’ve only got another 78 years to enjoy the building before it gets turned into high-end luxury flats!

Posted in Our Favourite Buildings.