Rome versus Durban, Achieving Ancient Access

Well, we’re getting closer to 2010. That only means one thing in South Africa: the new soccer stadiums have to be finished and ready for functioning.

Luckily I’m looking at the Durban venue for the consulting team, which wants me to advise on the suitability of the facilities for disabled people. and general accessibility as a whole. The concept of the Durban stadium follows the same basis as the Rome Colosseum built in 70-82AD: a large oval with a removable dry construction roof suspended over the playing area.

The seating capacity for the Roman Colosseum was 50 000 people. The capacity of the Durban stadium is also about 50 000, with a removable top tier for an additional 20 000 seats, making 70 000 in total. So maybe this design capacity is the ideal given the size of the sporting arena, and this hasn’t really changed over the last 2000 years.The overall size of the Roman stadium (as a footprint) is 188m x 156m with a height of 48.5m above ground level. The proposed Durban venue will be 300m x 230m, with its height at 45m to the outer compression ring. The old Roman stadium had 80 entry/exit points, apparently to allow quick evacuation of the building. Durban will have 30 entry/exits. We do have the advantages of elevators, which are generously used in the modern version, but it makes one think!

Safety and access inclusive
Safety is the buzzword these days, and I believe our safety experts and requirements in our safety codes are excellent. But there are many simple adjustments that can be made here which will improve the access and safety issue for everyone, and in the process make provision for disabled people which will be unique, and inclusive.

The aforementioned adjustments have been proposed, and hopefully they will be implemented, as it is a good time to do this without spoiling the ‘iconic’ status of this project.

The modern designers have the additional element of vehicular traffic to contend with. Durban’s stadium will have a podium which covers double the area of the stadium itself to house the storage of vehicles, and the horizontal circulation of them. As usual these so-called disadvantages can be turned into opportunities. This podium will be used as a level (Level 3) from which the stadium can be accessed and from which the seating can be reached by going up and down.It has been suggested that all the entries from that level to the lower and middle seating should have no steps. This leads to the whole of that area being a refuge area for everyone! And disabled people could have a wide variety of opportunities for sitting exactly where they want; not necessarily with other disabled people.

At present the architects have provided 100 seating places for disabled people, all behind the goals at level 5. There are also 140 VIP boxes (on level 4 and level 5) which will each seat about 20 people. These would be ideal for disabled people to be integrated; hopefully they will be accessible with ramps instead of steps.Facilities Managers of complexes like this stadium will have substantial input into how these facilities are used. Note will be taken of the amount of rubbish collected after each function; the periods of time between changing globes, cleaning materials required, where it is stored, who the lessees are for the food outlets, etc.

Tardiness limits disabled access
One thing I’ve noticed is that the cleaning regimes of large building complexes are controlled by the FMs. They often base their regimes on the building facilities provided. If the central cleaning store is in the basement, then the cleaners return their carts there, and start from there every day. Or they might just feel that leaving the cart in the Disabled toilet facility on the floor assigned to them (after all, it is kept locked) is much easier than going all the way back to the central store. This is a universal occurrence that also limits disabled access.

This is not always monitored by the Facilities Manager and can go unnoticed for years, even in hospitals. Architects can contribute here by insisting that a subsidiary cleaning store be part of every node of ablutions.

Given our Constitution and the Employment Equity Act, it is vital that disabled people are also employed in the stadium. The turnstiles and food vendor facilities should be manned by some disabled and previously disadvantaged people. I will feel so proud if this is really carried through, and that disabled people make themselves available to be employed there, as is their right. It will make this a truly South African Stadium.

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