Populous, the joint architects for Darling Harbour Live in Sydney with HASSELL, have been named winners of an RIBA international design competition for the United Kingdom’s Bristol Arena.

Announced last month by Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson, the £90 million, horseshoe-shaped live concert venue will feature an adaptive façade that acts as the building’s canvas, transitioning between an “ephemeral form by day to a dynamic event backdrop by night”. Its masonry plinth base reflects neighbouring buildings, while a crystalline upper form will allow the arena to continually mirror the changing face of the city.

“We believe Bristol Arena will be the catalyst for the creation of a vibrant new quarter in the city,” said Populous senior principal, Nicholas Reynolds.

“The design is flexible enough to cater for a wide variety of events and creates a range of spaces inside and out of the venue itself, for people to come together right through the year.”

The venue is able to cater for 12,000 people, but also seamlessly convert to create the atmosphere and intimacy of a 4,000 seat amphitheatre. Taking a step back to see the bigger picture, the design team also sought to make the building the UK’s most sustainable arena by striving to achieve a BREEAM ‘Excellent’ rating.

These strategies include featuring a displacement ventilation system and provision for the biggest building-based photovoltaic system in the city. The new building will also help create a new cycle and pedestrian link between the Temple Meads station and residential areas to the south and east.

The winning Populous Arena Team brings together Bristol architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, BuroHappold Engineering and sound specialists Vanguardia, who will use the building fabric to minimise sound break-out and ensure the arena is a “good neighbour to the surrounding areas in Bristol”.






The group beat four other shortlisted designs by White Arkitekter, Wilkinson Eyre, Grimshaw and IDOM, with the new arena to sit on a former diesel depot site ‘Arena Island’ site next to Temple Meads and Bath Road.  

Images: Bristol Temple Quarter