Built in 1990 specifically for the World Cup, the Stadio delle Alpi, although an impressive structure in and of itself, made for a bad football stadium. The usual thing: poor sight-lines, running track, remote location, lack of atmosphere. Juventus and Torino persisted in playing there until 2006, by which point Juventus were averaging crowds of about 25,000 across all competitions – Torino marginally less – in a ground with room enough for 69,000, compared to the approximate 47,000 thousand they’d been drawing in at the Stadio Comunale in 1998 (although it should be noted that attendances began to decline throughout all of Italy over the same period).
Actually, the delle Alpi’s number was up as early as 2002, when Juventus purchased the property off the city council for € 25 million with a view to knocking it down and constructing something more modest in its place – the same year a Coppa Italia encounter between Juventus and Sampdoria attracted a mere 237 supporters. In November 2008, plans for a new 41,000-seater stadium were finally unveiled with the project scheduled to commence the following year. In the meantime, both Juventus and Torino were able to return to the Stadio Comunale – now known as the Stadio Olimpico – after it had being substantially renovated ahead of the 2006 Winter Olympics. By September 2011, the new stadium was complete.
Stadio delle Alpi was essentially pre-fabricated, meaning that it was manufactured off-site and then pieced together on location. It follows that such a structure is easier to take down, and that much of its material is recoverable. Accordingly, in developing the new stadium a ‘sustainable construction policy’ was adopted that is reckoned to have recouped around €2.3 million in costs: the redundant terracing, for example, was reduced to aggregate and used to shore up the new ground’s foundations; something like 6,000 tons of various metals were recycled. Numerous energy-saving strategies were also incorporated into the new design – solar energy, district heating, the trapping of rainwater, and so on. Consider too that by scaling downward Juventus were able to sell off some off the land they’d acquired to the retail outlet Conad for around €20.25 million. Not only did this nearly cover the cost of the site itself, but the Area 12 Shopping Centre that Conad subsequently built, in partnership with French Hypermarket chain E. Leclerc, provided the sort of amenities that were beyond the football club’s reach: shops, bars, restaurants, as well as 2,000 parking spaces.
All in all, then, the new stadium appears to represent a neat piece of business. It looks like a neat piece of business. Comprised of a continuous, curved rectangular bowl, its simplicity is almost the most striking thing about it; only the row of the executive boxes squeezed between the two tiers of the west side and the ‘premium club’ seats directly in front disturb the monotony. But look up and you’ll notice two inverted V-shaped pylons at either end of the ground, pulling on steel tensioning cables attached to the trusses that support the roof. This is surely a nod to the old Stadio delle Alpi, whose roof was upheld in a similar fashion. Even the canopy itself bears some similarity, divided into sections with translucent gaps in-between letting in light.
The lower tier is about twice as deep as the upper ring of seating, and is as tight to the pitch as the available space will allow. Seats are mostly white but fade to black towards the rear, while three yellow stars behind each goal denote over 30 scudetti won. The 56 concrete monoliths that anchored the cables that supported the delle Alpi’s roof have been left in situ, as has the landscaped mound that encircled them – formed to diminish the ground’s profile against the backdrop of the Alps. As such the lower tier is indiscernible from without. The visible, upper stratum has been swathed in a skirt of grey panelling, save for a ring horizontal green, white and red panels around the stadium’s rim. Although in the main cosmetic, this façade gives protection against the elements for spectators congregating around the concourse that surrounds the top tier, which is uncluttered and with plenty of room to move about in.
From the off, there are those who have argued that the ground’s capacity should have been higher. Project manager and chief architect Gino Zavanella has pointed out that Juventus are currently averaging crowds of between 38,000 and 39,000, suggesting that they got the capacity just about right. In any case, the club have always argued that they’d rather sell out than have 10,000-odd seats left empty. More bothersome is the charge that, against minor opposition, the Juventus stadium can be rather uninspiring place; that the hardcore fans seem to save themselves for bigger games, and at other times the home support can be rather sedate. Or could it be something to do with place itself?
The Stadio Olimpico was built for the 1933’s Littoriali del Sport – an event set up by the National Fascist Party to celebrate itself – and the International University Games to be held that same year. The prospect of hosting the 1934 FIFA World Cup may also have played a part, although work on the stadium had already begun when the tournament was awarded to Italy, after much deliberation, in October 1932.
Although still rotten, Mussolini was a very different egg to Hitler and allowed Italian architects to build pretty much however they liked (out of indifference rather than benevolence). In 1927, Umberto Costanzini wrapped Bologna’s Stadio Littoriale, as it was then called, in a red bricked neoclassical façade. Just three years later and Pier Luigi Nervi was experimenting with raw, reinforced concrete at the Stadio Giovanni Berta – named after a Florentine fascist – in a manner that all but anticipated Brutalism. So it’s not so remarkable that Raffaello Fagnoni’s stadium in Turin ended up having something of the International Style about it, or even that it originally bore Mussolini’s name.
Juventus moved in first, in 1933, while Torino continued to play at Stadio Filadelfia until 1963, whereupon they joined Juventus at what had by now been rechristened Stadio Comunale, for obvious reasons. They stadium saw much success: Juventus were crowned champions 16 times and Torino 6 (and would have surely won more were it not for the Superga air disaster. By the time both clubs left to play at the Stadio delle Alpi, the Comunale was showing its age.