While we are all watching the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the question is, if the countries competing in the world’s biggest sporting event were required to also compete in terms of buildings and architects, who would be crowned the 2018 World Cup champion of Architecture?
The spiritual home of socialist brutalism is a rather befitting metaphor for the current Russian football team - the lowest rank team in FIFA history to make to World Cup playoffs. There’s a lot to be said about the experts' impressions.
An example of brutalist Russian architecture. Pic: Boing Boing
Uruguay’s Palacio Salvo set in the capital Montevideo is a magnificent building constructed on the Plaza Independencia although few can explain exactly what the use of the building is. This is a bit like the country’s star player - Luis Suárez – stunning, classy at times, but at other times no-one is exactly sure what he is all about.
The 21st century Abraj al-Bait towers lurch menacingly over the historic mosque of Mecca making both the Kingdom's architectural tastes and the team early losers. Oddly enough, Saudi Arabia was the first team to fall out of the first round in 2018.
While Liverpool and Egypt goalmaker Mohammed Saleh is great, Egypt’s Pyramids are even greater.
Portugal’s Baroque architecture flows naturally with the environment, very much like Christiano Ronaldo’s dribbling - minus all that corporate sponsorships though.
When you think of Spain, you think of Gaudí, the great master of Catalan modernism and his Sagrada Familia cathedral, which has yet to be fully completed - much like Spain’s World Cup destiny- both complicated and a work in progress.
A bit like the country’s football team, Moroccan architecture is a bit of an unknown.
Iran’s Golestan Palace means the palace of flowers, and it was the royal residence for the Qajar dynasty which ruled Persia during the 19th century. The country’s soccer team, unlike its architecture is both modern and has much more to offer than old glories.
Les Bleus can be a bit like French architect Le Corbusier: adored and hated, brilliant but at times also essential.
The Opera House, Harbour Bridge, the new Parliament House - if only the country’s football team was so stylish and so advanced. They have the potential, the players and the heart - but will they have the luck?
The Opera House in all its glory. Pic: Sydney Opera House.
Sure Peru has a lot of high points in its architecture like the Nazca Lines and of course Machu Picchu. But their football team? - well, let’s say we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.
Jarne Utzon and Arne Jacobsen are the Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi of modern architecture. Their national football team though are a bit like IKEA though - very standardised, dry and a bit, well, boxy.
Since the retirement of Diego Maradona some two decades ago not much all that exciting has happened in Argentinian football. And the same can be said for their architecture.
The best thing about Iceland is their attitude - to both football and architecture, although they are a bit more famous for their football recently.
With the beauty of Dubrovnik combined with the skills of Luka Modric, and tens of thousands of adoring fans in tow, what could go wrong?
Dubrovnik. Pic: Mumbai Foodie
The Nigerians are one of the best teams in Africa, thereby earning their team nickname of the ‘Super Eagles’, alluding to how they like to soar to new heights. Recently, the idea of ‘floating buildings’ was proposed for the country’s capital Lagos, perhaps in keeping with the flying theme.
As the winners of 5 World Cups, South America’s most populous country is a powerhouse of international football. It also is famous for its architects such as Oscar Niemeyer, considered to be one of the key figures in the development of modern architecture. And let’s not forget that huge statue of Jesus Christ that towers over Rio de Janeiro, another example of Brazil’s ambitions in the world - sporting or otherwise.
Brazilian national team 2018. Pic: Soccer Football Whatever
Much like their multicultural football team, Swiss architects have international influence, with the Olympic Stadium in Beijing, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Blue Tower in New York all born from the imagination of architects from the country of the Alps.
This is the only South American country not to have an army, or a major football trophy or a world-renowned architect. There is still time though.
Plenty of examples of socialist and brutalist architecture combined with a national football team that looks like a side with talent on paper at least. However, time will tell which of these two will outlast the other.
The German national football team or Die Mannschaften are known for their precision, coolness under pressure and dedication to winning, not unlike Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus School and one of the pioneering masters of modernist architecture.
Die Mannschaften. Pic: FoottheBall
Colour, noise, flair and Sombreros – much like contemporary Mexican architecture - minus the Sombreros perhaps.
Swedish architecture is mainly famous due to its cutting-edge design and sustainability. Swedish football is mainly famous due to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is not even playing for the national team in this World Cup.
South Korea is more than just pagodas and temples- it is by its very nature, a modern and well-designed urban landscape, features adopted by its national football team.
Bilingual Belgium is a country whose football team needs to try twice as hard to be successful, while architecture in Belgium showcases a range of innovative projects, diverse materials and unconventional forms employed in their construction. Very much a divergent situation.
It has a canal - a really big and important canal, and a very small and ultimately insignificant national football side.
Tunisian architecture is mix of styles, forms and influences, but the question remains, will a similar type of mixed play get them through to the more important rounds of FIFA 2018?
Where does one start? Architecture in England goes back as long as the country, while its modernist iterations has produced such icons as the Lloyd’s Building in 1986, one of the most radical examples of ‘Bowellism’ architecture, where services such as lifts are located on the outside of the building, to maximise space in the interior. As for the national football side, the first and last time England won a World Cup was 1966. So, will 2018 be the Year of the Three Lions? We have 3 weeks to find out.
London's Gherkin. Pic: CBRE Commercial
According to some, Poland's most famous architect to date has been is Daniel Libeskind. As for their football team, well, who would know. Poland is the world’s largest exporter of apples - and who knew about that either?
As a former French colony, Senegal’s national football team is nicknamed the ‘Lions of Teranga’. But it’s architects have been up until now, as quiet as mice - so all the pressure is on the Lions to roar their way into the finals.
Always in the shadow of Brazil and Argentina, Colombia is a nation of contradictions. Great footballers with little silverware to show on the world stage. The same cannot be said for its architectural heritage which includes indigenous, European, Indian and African influences.
Toyo Ito is known for creating conceptual architecture that seeks to express both physical and virtual worlds and was named as one of the world’s most innovative and influential architects and was awarded the Pritzker Prize in 2013. The Samurai Blue as the national football team is known has been equally as successful, having qualified for the last six consecutive FIFA World Cups, and having won the AFC Asian Cup a record four times, while also finishing second in the 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup.
Croatia vs Brazil
Germany vs Portugal
Germany vs Brazil
And the winner of the 2018 World Cup in Architecture is Germany with its Bauhaus School and overall approach to modernist architecture – and of course the ice-cool Mannschaften.