Piano’s forte | San Nicola commission put distance between fans

Concept sketch for Stadio San Nicola. Link to the Renzo Piano Building Workshop.Atlanta | With Heysel, hooliganism and concerns for safety at the fore, Renzo Piano in the late 1980s received a commission for a World Cup stadium in Bari, Italy. Among other architectural models and renderings covering two floors at the newly opened High Museum expansion—also a Piano commission—plans for the Stadio San Nicola indicate an emphasis on keeping spectators apart.

At the European Cup final at Heysel in 1985, Liverpool supporters had attacked fans from Juventus sitting nearby, resulting in 39 deaths. The result at San Nicola, named for St. Nicolas, the patron saint of Bari, was “two-way separation.”

“The first is a horizontal separation between the upper and lower tiers of the stands,” according to the architect’s notes. “The second is a vertical separation, created by 26 successive sections in elliptic form. Each is shaped like a petal, projecting outward and upward.” The stadium serves as home for AS Bari of Italy’s Serie B and, in 1990, hosted the third-place match at the World Cup finals, a 2–1 victory for Italy over England.

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