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The Most Unique Stadium in Europe: Estádio Municipal de Braga

The Municipal Stadium of Braga is one of the most unique soccer stadiums in Europe. Located in the northwest region of Portugal in the Minho District, and finished construction in 2003. What makes the stadium unique is that it was built within a limestone quarry and designed to highlight the contrast between nature and the surrounding city of Braga. The Stadium itself and its lead architect, Eduardo Souto de Moura, have won several awards for the stadium’s beauty. In 2005, the IPPAR (Instituto Português do Património Arquitetónico) declared the stadium a national patrimony due to its significant beauty. Souto de Moura won the Secil Prize in 2005, Pritzker Architect Prize in 2011, and the Wolf Prize in Arts in 2013, all for the incredible design of Braga’s Stadium. With such a unique and beautiful stadium, how did Souto de Moura get his idea into reality within the legal framework of Portuguese building laws?

Portuguese law has specific regulations when it comes to public or private projects. In 2013, they passed a decree which established submitting an environment impact assessment (“EIA”) for any project that will likely have a significant impact on the environment. This is to ensure that any project does not negatively impact the environment or destroy the natural beauty of the land. This was enacted after the building of the stadium but when renovations are conducted on the stadium, it will more than likely have to pass the environment impact assessment. But, due to Souto De Moura's emphasis on not taking away the natural beauty of the area to build the stadium, I believe that, if the decree was in effect when construction occurred, they would have been approved.

If the stadium was built today it would have had to submit an environmental impact assessment because most of the construction on the project was digging into the limestone quarry. They repurposed the limestone extracted to build the two foundations for the stadium seats. The environmental impact assessment decree also specifically mentions mining as one of the types of actions where one is required to submit an EIA and this project would have certainly needed one. Compared to other major stadiums in Europe, where they have large stands on all four sides of the stadium, the Municipal Stadium of Braga does not. This was to ensure the natural landscape was preserved and the quarry was not completely destroyed.

The Municipal Stadium of Braga is one of the most unique stadiums in Europe and breaks the tradition of what a normal large-scale soccer stadium looks like. This was only possible because of architect Souto de Moura's commitment to making a stadium naturally blend into the surrounding landscape and will more than likely fit the relatively recent strict environmental regulations of Portugal.

Evan Lautato, Rising 2L at St. John’s University of Law School, 1L Representative for the Entertainment and Sports Law Society,


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