Al Ain stadium rocks the architectural world with award nomination

If the project gets the go-ahead, the 40,000-seat Rock Stadium will blend into the side of Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain.

A sunken stadium built into the side of a mountain is one of two UAE projects to make the shortlist for this year's World Architecture Festival Awards in Singapore.

The Rock Stadium, a planned 40,000 seat stadium sunk into the ground, will represent the Emirates in the Future Projects category at the annual event being held at the beginning of October.

When designing the stadium, the Lebanese firm MZ Architects envisioned a structure having minimal aesthetic and environmental impact on the surrounding landscape. Taking inspiration from ancient Greek stadia built into the sides of hills and mountains, the 200,000-square-metre structure is designed to blend into the side of Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain.

Sustainability also played a big part in the design and location - the architects intend to use the material excavated in the stadium's construction for other parts of the project, while the sunken structure will limit the desert sun's impact and cooling costs.

The competition's judges described the Al Ain stadium design as "an extraordinary project" with "a very sustainable approach in construction", according to Architecture Lab magazine.

Marwan Zgheib, founder of MZ Architects, which has an office in Abu Dhabi, said the structure "blurred the boundaries between the built and the natural".

He added that he was "deeply honoured" that the project had been nominated for the award.

The five Etihad towers designed by Australian architects DBI Design made up the other Emirati entry, in the Completed Building category.

Also in contention at this year's awards are three entries from Qatar, while Oman, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have one each.