EXCLUSIVE: Meet the makers of Motera Stadium — the same company that designed Melbourne Cricket Ground and sections of Lord’s

Aerial view of the Motera StadiumPopulous
  • In an exclusive interview with Business Insider, Andrew James, the Lead Architect and senior principal at Populous, shares the story behind designing Motera Stadium.
  • Populous is a global leading architecture design firm which has also designed sections of Lord’s as well as the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
  • Motera was possibly one of the most challenging projects as the budget was about a sixth compared to other international peers.
The majestic Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, was visualised three years ago by Populous, the same company that designed sections of the ‘home of cricket’, the Lord’s Stadium in London, and the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), which was the largest cricket stadium in the world until Motera was built.

And the headlines it made were superlative right from the word go. It was the world’s biggest stadium at birth and its first visitor was none other than US President Donald Trump on his maiden visit to India, along with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania at MoteraBCCL

Populous is a leading architecture design firm, which has designed several popular sporting venues including the Tottenham Hotspur stadium,Wembley Stadium as well as FIFA and Olympic Venues. But Motera was possibly one of the most challenging projects as the budget was about a sixth compared to other international peers.
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Building the Motera Stadium: Behind the scenes

Andrew James, the Lead Architect and senior principal at Populous, told Business Insider that the brief for Motera was simple – it has to be larger than the MCG. And having been the lead designer for the MCG as well, James got to work and designed Motera with 9,000 more seats.

Designers Vision of MoteraPopulous

The global architecture design firm started working on the Motera Stadium after L&T approached them for a collaboration in 2017. Having worked in India before, James knew that to win the client over for this he had to make sure the Gujarat Cricket Association liked the design, they met the criteria and everything, while offering the best price. “Our design came in 20% less than the competitors. Having designed the best stadiums in the world, we knew exactly what was required and what was not,” said James.
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Motera Stadium - What sets it apart

James said that the Motera, designed like a bowl, is a very utilitarian building. The stadium along with 110,000 seats boasts of a community indoor cricket academy, a dormitory for up to 40 athletes, six indoor practice pitches and three outdoor practice fields.

It also includes four-team dressing rooms and facilities, state-of-the-art club facilities and a VIP pavilion, three practice grounds, an Olympic-size swimming pool, 76 corporate boxes and a media lounge with press rooms.
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Every aspect of the stadium has been built in international standards, but the differentiator remains the size of it, within a tight space. “It’s built on the earlier cricket ground but is much bigger. Just the footprints of the stadium were touching the boundaries,” said James.

And there began the challenges of Motera.

Along with the space crunch, Populous had to design the stadium keeping safety in manner. “With a stadium in India, the biggest fear is not just about the structure collapsing but also the sheer amount of people leaving the stadium together,” he said, and added that unlike the West, people in India don’t mind crowds.
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Crowd at Motera during President Trump's visitBCCL

The biggest challenge was also the budget. James shared that the budget for Motera ₹600-700 crore, whereas a stadium of the same size in England or Australia would cost six times as much.

The recently announced Jaipur Cricket Stadium was set to be larger than life

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Jaipur is set to get the world’s third largest cricket stadium with 75,000 seats, but six years ago, the then head of the Rajasthan Cricket Association Lalit Modi had commissioned Populous to build something the world hadn’t seen before.

“The stadium in talks then was supposed to be much different than how it’s being designed today. It was supposed to be smaller, with 30,000 seats but was designed to be the most exciting party venue in the world,” shared James. Populous’ idea was to recreate the stepwell culture in Rajasthan and have a stadium that was daggered into the ground.

James said that the idea wasn’t just to earn money from the stadium when it holds a cricket match once a year, but instead have a venue which was beyond cricket.

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While the Jaipur Cricket Stadium is not on their docket anymore, Populous, which has designed more than 3,500 projects worth $40 billion in the last 30 years continues to look at several other projects in India.

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