One-of-a-kind soccer stadium was to be built in middle of desert with rock-carved stand

Sadly it wasn't to be
  • Rock Stadium was a proposed football stadium in the United Arab Emirates
  • It would have held 40,000 spectators
  • MZ Architects was the firm tasked with designing this unique desert stadium

Published on Apr 25, 2024 at 12:23PM (UTC+4)

Last updated on Apr 25, 2024 at 6:57PM (UTC+4)

Edited by Amelia Jean Hershman-Jones

Once upon a time, the United Arab Emirates wanted to build a massive ‘Rock Stadium’ to become a player on the global stage.

We aren’t talking about a stadium custom-built for hosting bands like AC/DC or Metallica – it’s not that kind of rock – we’re talking about a huge sporting arena hewn out of solid rock.

In recent times, countries from the Middle East have been significantly increasing their profile in the world of sport.

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From Saudi Arabia’s hosting of huge boxing events, and the growth of their domestic football league – including the signing of a certain Portuguese car collector – through to Qatar hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup – complete with police in Lamborghinis – the Middle East is really making a play just now.

But, before all that, plans were being hatched in the UAE back in the 2010s.

The government wanted to build a massive one-of-a-kind sporting arena into the Jebel Hafeet mountain near Al Ain, featuring a unique and innovative design.

It would have seen three huge and interlinked trapezoids forming three stands, with one huge terrace along another side of the ground, cut into the side of the rocky mountain.

The stadium would have been home to the local team Al Ain FC, the UAE’s most successful team.

MZ Architects was the company that was asked to look into creating this unique stadium, and they were so inspired by the desert landscape that they wanted to pay homage to it through their design concept.

It would have held around 40,000 spectators – had it been built – and would no doubt have been one of the coolest stadiums on the planet.

‘Cool’ in two ways, too.

Sure, Rock Stadium may not have rivaled this massive Saudi sports city, but it still looks great, right?

In an article, the company behind the design wrote: “Sunken into the cooler depth of the desert sand, the Rock Stadium, like a hidden treasure, presents itself to the visitor as a series of sharply inclined planes emerging from the ground.

“These planes, in addition to the volcanic mountain backdrop in front of which they lay, define the space of the stadium and its related activities and create a magnificent place that allows for the conglomeration of a large number of visitors in the heart of the vast landscape.”

They continued: “This simple yet majestic design hides great achievements and brilliant experimentations with issues of scale, monumentality and locality, hence allowing the project to create a strong sense of place in an otherwise homogenous area of the vast expanding desert.”

The design world was certainly impressed, as the proposed stadium was up for several awards, including receiving a high commendation 2012 World Architecture Festival’s ‘Future Projects: Competition Entries’ category.

In the end, they simply flew a little too close to the sun and the project became massively complicated and ultimately too expensive – so it was shelved.

Despite that, it has yet to be officially canceled, meaning that we could still see this incredible stadium rise from the sands of the desert into the mountain one day.

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