In the latest phase of Bristol Arena‘s development, 5 design proposals have been shared online. The Arena is a 12,000 capacity indoor entertainment venue due to open in 2017, close to Bristol Temple Meads Station.

As well as the arena, there will be streets, public spaces and a mixed-use development with shops, homes and employment space to create a new creative hub for the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone.

Members of the public were recently given the chance to offer their opinions on the proposals, which RIBA and Bristol City Council claim: “…will be considered by the competition panel when they meet at the end of February to evaluate all aspects of the proposals and make a decision on the successful team.”

The project has received £90 million in funding from Bristol City Council and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, who claim Bristol Arena will: “bring the biggest acts and millions of pounds of economic growth to the region”.

A fair fight

Though the architects competing for the chance to design Bristol Arena have been announced, their names are not linked to any of the projects to ensure anonymity. Proposals from the following architects have made it into the shortlist:

  • GrimshawArchitects of the Eden project (with MANICA Architecture, Thornton Tomasetti, M-E Engineers and Neil Woodger Acoustics)
  • IDOMDesigners of the Bilbao Arena (in collaboration with Foreman Roberts and Nagata Acoustics)
  • PopulousArchitects for the London Olympic Stadium (with Feilden Clegg Bradley, Buro Happold and Vanguardia)
  • White ArkitekterArchitects for Kiruna City Plan (with Arup and Sandy Brown Acoustic Consultant)
  • Wilkinson EyreArchitects for Liverpool Arena (with Arup)

You can see the five projects, and a few of the comments they generated, below:

Team A


Team A claim their, “…philosophy is to create a cutting edge, international, multi-event location, a ‘Colosseum’ for Bristol, with innovative sustainability credentials, a robust and economic envelope reflecting Bristol’s artistic flair and a fully flexible and functional performance space surrounded by generous circulation and supporting accommodation.”

While the inclusion of parking spaces and good access to Temple Meads train station were praised, Team A’s proposal was otherwise poorly received.

Several commentators compared the proposal to a gasometer – a criticism which arrives at an inopportune moment for Team A considering nearby Bath’s gasometer is currently being decommissioned. Others expressed dismay at the proposal’s “identikit” appearance, claiming that such a landmark building should have more personality.

Team B


With a focus on green credentials, Team B claim that their proposal will: “respond to [the] city around it,in its form, materials and colour, generating spaces and new uses that will create a major new waterfront destination”.

Commentators praised the inclusion of photovoltaic panels and Team B’s apparent interest in creating a facility designed for mixed use, suitable for a community-based environment.

A façade using timber cladding as its primary material divided opinion. Some commentators were pleased with the industrial aesthetic which complements Bristol’s history as a manufacturing city, whilst others thought the visual aspect created by the timber gave Team B’s proposal the look of a “giantrusty warehouse” and a “…brown version ofIKEA”.

Team C


An “…elegant, elliptical response to Bristol’s ambition for an international performance venue”, Team C proposed an eco-friendly design, too. Using sustainably sourced materials and renewable energy sources, Team C’s proposal also seeks to “minimise the impact of the arena” with a low profile roof and a transparent front.

Generally well-received, many commentators seemed confident that the proposed structure would age well. Praise was also given for the glazed perimeter designed to mimic the hull of a ship, as well as the inclusive nature of the design, allowing passers-by to participate in the activities inside the building.

Scepticism regarding the building’s eco-credentials formed the only substantial criticism. One commentator said: “I dislike the amount of light that it is expected to emit – so much for Bristol’s Dark Skies policy“. The source of Team C’s proposed ‘passive’ energy was also called into question.

Team D


With an emphasis on “Bristol’s status as a world leader in the ‘Playable City’ initiative”, Team D’s proposal is intended to “…speak back to the city with a strong voice that represents and echoes its own”.

References to the proposal’s “dated” and “uninspiring” appearance were made by several commentators. In contrast, the landscaping was met with praise from several commentators, with one noting that it was “the best of all the entries”.

Team E


Putting forward probably the most unconventional of all 5 proposals, Team E claim their design is a “materialisation of a dream”, and will create a “powerful” visual identity. Discussion of Team E’s proposal revolved around the waterfall feature, “a metaphor of Bristol’s relationship with nature and its role as European Green Capital 2015”, according to Team E.

Many commentators were impressed with the ambition behind Team E’s proposal, with several describing the design as “iconic”, and one commentator suggesting it “blows the competition out of the water (no pun intended)”.

One commentator expressed concern that a “…hideous tower block on the far side of Bath Road is basically being sneaked in”, with some others echoing their concern.

Altogether though, Team E’s proposal roused a strong and mostly positive reaction from commentators, with one calling attention to the buzz by saying, “…just look at how much comment it’s already generating!”

The next steps

Comments are now closed, but the winning team will be announced in March. Detailed plans and transport strategies are also forthcoming, and there will be further opportunities to comment on these prior to the planning application submission in Summer 2015.

In the meantime, why not follow @BristolArena1 on Twitter for the latest updates.

Josh Ryall