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Richard Serra and the new Spurs stadium

Richard Serra and the new Spurs stadium

Tottenham Hotspur’s new 62,000-seat stadium has been highly praised for its design, atmosphere and innovative facilities. The project has also created thousands of jobs and helped regenerate a part of London with historic social problems.

Here, Richard Serra MRICS describes his role in bringing the stadium to life, as well as how surveyors played a major part throughout the project development.

What was your role in the stadium project?

As Spurs’ in-house Head of Planning, my principal responsibility was to obtain planning permission for the new stadium (which we achieved in April 2016), but I have been closely involved in overcoming other legal and property hurdles necessary for the stadium delivery.

As a planning and development surveyor, I have been central to the planning, rights of light and compulsory purchase processes and the implementation of the transport strategy post-opening.

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The retractable pitch has necessitated many design innovations and technologies

What were the biggest challenges? And how did you overcome them?

Land assembly: one of the early challenges was the assembly of the land required to build the stadium. All except one of the land interests were acquired by private treaty with nearly all site occupiers successfully relocated to nearby sites.

Planning: the stadium sits within a tight, urban environment surrounded by residential, community and commercial neighbours. It is also adjacent to heritage assets, including Grade II* listed buildings. We consulted widely during the design of the scheme and the preparation of the planning application to address as many concerns as possible.

Transport: one of the biggest challenges has been transport, given the increase in capacity from the old stadium (36,000) to the new (62,000). The transport assessment, which forms the basis of the stadium transport strategy is founded on years of travel surveys and data modelling to enable us to forecast travel demand with some accuracy. Minimising the impact of an event day on the local area has been a high priority.

What were the most satisfying aspects of your work on the stadium development?

The building itself: I chose a career in the built environment to make positive change and there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a building through from the first concept sketches to seeing it occupied and enjoyed.

The fans: It is their stadium and seeing their reaction when the doors opened for the first competitive game was hugely satisfying. It is also humbling to be involved during one of the most important periods in the club’s long history.

There will always be a need for buildings to live, work and play in, but with Earth’s resources becoming ever-more scarce, there is a huge opportunity for surveyors to play key roles in sustainable development.

Which other professions did you work closely with on the stadium?

I’ve been extremely lucky to have worked with many leaders in their respective professional fields, including: planning solicitors; property solicitors; barristers; planning consultants; architects; heritage advisors; urban designers; civil engineers; highways engineers; acoustic engineers; ecologists; transport planners; management accountants; PR/community consultants…

In what different ways were surveyors involved during the project?

General practice surveyors (agents and valuers) were essential at the beginning of the project during the land assembly to negotiate the acquisition of various land interests. The scheme quantity surveyor played in key role in cost monitoring – particularly with the use of so much bespoke design, technology and materials throughout the building. Rights of light surveyors played a key part in enabling the stadium to proceed through the use of sophisticated computer modelling and collaboration with property lawyers and the design team.

Although independent of the football club, the local council’s head of building control has been a key member of the wider team and was instrumental in ensuring the building is safe.

What are the most innovative design, build or technological parts of the stadium?

The design development of the stadium draws on best practice throughout the world and there are a number of technological firsts, including being a fully cashless stadium. The retractable pitch, however, has necessitated many design innovations and technologies, but allows the stadium to host NFL games, concerts and other major events throughout the year.

I chose a career in the built environment to make positive change and there is nothing more satisfying than seeing a building through from the first concept sketches to seeing it occupied and enjoyed.

Richard Serra
Head of Planning, Tottenham Hotspur FC

What are the most innovative elements of the stadium from a visitor’s point of view?

The matchday experience for both general admission and premium fans has been significantly enhanced. Fans are arriving much earlier and leaving later, as there is much more to do and see, eat and drink. The on-site micro-brewery is proving very popular, as is the bottom-up beer pouring technology, which allows us to serve 10,000 pints per minute.

What impact is the stadium redevelopment having on the local community?

The stadium is in an area that still has socio-economic challenges. The club has created over 2,000 full-time equivalent jobs through the stadium and related projects so far, with the remainder of the stadium masterplan still to be delivered. The inward investment brought into the area by both football and non-football events will sustain regeneration in the area for future generations.

How do you feel surveyors can positively impact society in general? Why should people join the profession?

There will always be a need for buildings to live, work and play in, but with Earth’s resources (including land) becoming ever-more scarce, there is a huge opportunity for surveyors across a range of specialisms to play key roles in the sustainable development of those buildings.

The operating environment for surveyors is becoming ever more complex and challenging, but it has never been more interesting or exciting as a result.

What skills do you think will be most important for surveyors in the future?

Core skills such as interpersonal, communication and organisational skills remain essential, but are now supplemented by the need to embrace and apply rapidly developing technologies. A wider understanding of globalism and its impact on property development and the built environment is now essential.

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