A mixed-use entertainment street in Rome, designed by Canadian firm Forrec, will connect the city’s new Stadio della Roma to the AS Roma Village. This ambitious project plans to create a vibrant, modern destination with its roots in Rome’s past.
Gordon Dorett, who has been with Forrec since 1985, driving its development and growth for three decades, last spoke with Blooloop as he prepared to hand the position of president and CEO over to Cale Heit last year.
Dorrett was looking forward to spending more time on the floor with the design studios, and working on special projects.
Blooloop caught up with him again recently in his new role as executive director. He discussed one of these projects, Rome’s Stadio della Roma. This is a development designed to link the main stadium to the AS Roma football team village and a one-million-square-metre business park.
Stadio della Roma and the history of Rome
Football club A S Roma is building a new stadium and entertainment district. The stadium is expected to open in 2020. FORREC is the designer of the entertainment district, including a future Hall of Fame. It is drawing on Rome’s history to put entertainment at the heart of a premier sports and entertainment complex.
The project centres around the need to transform sports arenas into multi-faceted entertainment destinations. This is a way of optimising their socio-economic impact. It will feature elements inspired by the city’s past and its potential future. These will include a vibrant blend of piazzas, restaurants, retail, entertainment and bustling markets.
Describing the project, Dorrett said, “The genius behind all this is the primary owner, Jim Pallotta (right), who bought the team a few years ago. His vision was to create a new home for this team, and to make a statement about what, I will call, the new wave of sports.”
The project centres as much on entertainment as it does on the sports. It caters for not just the diehard fan, but the casual observer, and all the potential fans. Dorrett said, “So the core and the shining light of all this is the new state-of-the-art stadium as an independent piece.
“In reality, the stadium only has so many games, so many concerts. The dream was to create this mixed-use entertainment street. And that’s really where we came in.”
Understanding the vision
Pallotta had been working on the stadium with traditional architects for a couple of years. Dorrett says, “When they met us, we listened and understood what Jim’s vision was, and we hit it off.”
FORREC’s modus operandi involves an initial scrutiny of the guest experience.
Dorrett said, “And so when we sat down with Jim [Pallotta] and Ed Latessa, (of Aria Partners) and their group, we came at it with the idea that this is one of the most studied places in the world, in terms of ‘people places.’ Why invent something new? It was important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
In Rome, he points out, people wind their way through streets, piazzas and plazas with a constant sense of discovery. “So that was our starting cue. We didn’t want to do a straight reproduction; we didn’t want to do anything that looked like a theme park.”
FORREC is, of course, known for its theme park expertise. So the aim was to create something brand-new, but with its roots in Rome’s past.
The Hall of Fame and the heritage of AS Roma
“We started looking at the plazas in terms of how they were going to be used, in the celebrations before the game, and particularly when there are no games on. How do you bring life to the spaces? Why would someone travel half an hour outside of the city to come and see this thing? There had to be a sense of discovery and a sense of movement. In addition, like any good retailer, it had to have a series of anchors.”
One of the major anchors is the Hall of Fame, enshrining the memory of an elite group of players who, since 1927, have had a profound impact on the history, success and heritage of AS Roma and its fans.
“Halls of Fame are proving to be very successful in Europe these days. With a story to tell, combined with the stadium, and the stadium tours, it’s natural.”
Other ‘anchors’ that will be incorporated will range from the very large food emporiums to individual entertainment attractions.
Storytelling is key
“It won’t be a typical shopping mall, by any stretch of the imagination; it really is going to be as much about entertainment and food, and the retail will be niche,” said Dorrett.
Storytelling, in terms of what happens in each of the spaces, is key.
“The squares have all been designed to be completely multifunctional, at all levels, from very intimate dining spaces to a capacity of about 10,000 people. One might be the perfect size to let out for a corporate event, another the perfect size to do a fashion or a car show. We can transform a public space holding about 2,500 people during the day into an outdoor venue for a speciality show at the weekend.”
Further layers to the innovative development are in discussion. “The layers include a sculptural art park. So we are making sure the design incorporates niches and areas where we can have sculpture. This could be contemporary work, or it could be work that is on loan from other major institutions in Rome. It will be a place where you’ll want to come and just wander through the streets because they are a beautiful human scale, you feel good to be in it, and you discover the sculptures along the way.
Bringing out the character
“We are also looking at a number of different technology and entertainment solutions, both physical and virtual. There may be puzzles as you walk through the space; it could be simple names inlaid into brick, it could be a Roma logo, it could be stars of the past. As you wander through the space you use clues to answer the questions. You then have to find various artefacts that relate to the site and to the team, both in hard form and in virtual form.
“It is almost like bringing the amenities of the new development, but the character, touch and feel of old world, without simply copying it. One of the keys is not just to talk about the bricks and mortar, but how this space can be programmed.”
A fortunate circumstance is that a major office space is being built right alongside the development. This means that during the day a huge lunchtime crowd will help fill seats in the food establishments.
“This has to survive on its own,” he points out. “What comes from the people in the stadium is really an added bonus.”
Fun at Forrec
Another favourable factor for Stadio della Roma is its location. It is very commutable in terms of public transport. There is also the parking, “The stadium parking will only be used for major events. When you talk to large branded tenants, they get excited about the space because, oh wow, people could actually come here and park.”
In short, Stadio della Roma references Rome’s ancient past in the creation of a vibrant, modern destination.
Dorrett formally handed over to his successor, Cale Heit, on October the 1st. Since then, he has immersed himself in fascinating projects.
“I’m working on Stadio della Roma, and on another huge one in the Middle East right now. I am having fun designing projects that aren’t typical. It’s working out, still being here and being the wise old grey-haired guy in the corner who can answer questions. And Cale is doing a great job moving forward.”
Images courtesy Forrec and Stadio della Roma.