London's Largest Indoor Venue To Be Built by Populous

UK architecture studio Populous has unveiled their plans for London’s largest indoor venue to be built for client Madison Square Garden Company (MSG).

Otherwise called the “Golf Ball” due to its spherical shape, MSG Sphere London is planned to be 90 metres high and will have a capacity of 21,500 with 17,566 seated. Along with a main auditorium, the space will contain restaurants, cafes, and a members’ club. London is MSG’s first international venue, chosen because research by Sound Diplomacy revealed that the city has fewer large arenas relative to its population, compared to other major cities including Paris, Berlin, and New York. MSG purchased almost 5 acres of land next to the Olympic Park in east London, on a triangular site that is surrounded on all sides by railway lines alongside the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre.

The London Legacy Development Corporation's planning committee voted six to four in favour of the proposal to build the venue, despite the fact that 852 objections to the project were submitted (with only 355 responses of support). Their report added that “recurring themes in opposition are the lack of need for the development as well as its scale, massing and form”. Historic England, the public body that looks after England’s historic environment, warned the Sphere would damage nearby conservation areas. The principal planning development manager at LLDC, however, says that “development has been judged to be consistent with its town centre context and would diversify the cultural and night time offer”. He went on to say that there would be “no direct harm” to heritage assets.

The interior surface of the sphere will be covered in LED screens that might be utilised for esports, where audiences could participate and interact with each other in the competition. A statement from MSG said, "It represents an important milestone in the company's vision to redefine live entertainment through iconic venues that will feature game-changing technologies and pioneer the next generation of transformative, immersive experiences." This technology will give audiences the ability to enjoy immersive multi-sensory experiences that will push the limits and completely transform the way live events are experienced in the future. The exterior of the sphere will also be covered in LED screens that will be used as a billboard for promotions, advertising, and digital art, showing a range of static and moving images. 

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, stated: “From intimate grassroots music venues to spectacular arenas, London’s buzzing live music scene is world-renowned. It’s great to welcome another world-class venue to the capital, to confirm London’s position as a music powerhouse, and to boost still further our city’s thriving night-time economy.”

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