The Municipality of Florence has today (Friday) launched an international design competition that will seek to transform Stadio Artemio Franchi, the home of Serie A football club Fiorentina.

The competition as a whole does not solely focus on the stadium, which opened in 1931 and has a current capacity of around 43,000. Instead, it seeks to create a new sports/cultural space as a key part of the urban regeneration of the Campo di Marte area in Florence.

Mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, said: “In 2026 Fiorentina will be 100 years old. The ideal occasion to celebrate the Viola’s centenary is the inauguration of the new Stadio Franchi. We want to create a new cultural and social sports space that enhances the whole district and is usable not only for sporting events, but seven days a week.”

Nardella said the budget for the entire project is projected to be a maximum of €190m (£162.9m/$226.3m), of which work on the stadium is expected to take up €137.5m. The Municipality has specified that the new-look Franchi must have a capacity of 40,000 seats, covered entirely by a roof.

The Franchi was designed by renowned Italian architect Pier Luigi Nervi and is considered one of the best examples of European architecture from the 20th century. The redevelopment is envisioned to preserve the main elements of the stadium, such as its iconic ‘Tower of Marathon’, while bringing the facility up to modern-day standards.

Nardella said at a press conference: “Changes will be made within the stadium’s masterplan. It will be modernised but maintained in the conception of the architect Nervi. There will be an enhancement of the original project by Nervi, the same designer of the Stadio Flaminio in Rome.”

In April, the Municipality’s ongoing efforts to transform the Franchi were boosted after the project received a substantial funding package from the Italian government’s national recovery plan. Italy’s Council of Ministers approved the plan, which in total allocated around €6bn to projects relating to the cultural sector. With an allocation of €95m, the Franchi redevelopment was one of 14 strategic projects labelled great cultural attractions which were assigned €1.46bn in total.

In February, Nardella fleshed out the Municipality’s vision for an “ambitious and wide-ranging” redevelopment of the Franchi. Nardella in January reiterated the Municipality’s commitment to the Franchi stating that an international competition would soon be launched to find a partner to conduct “one of the most important restyling interventions” in the world.

Nardella spoke after Fiorentina president Rocco Commisso slammed a ruling from Italy’s Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities (MiBACT) that stated the Franchi cannot be demolished or undergo a major redevelopment due to its historic status.

The decision appeared to mark the latest blow to the club’s long-held ambitions to either redevelop the Franchi or move to a new stadium elsewhere in Tuscany. The Franchi is owned by the Municipality of Florence and in response to MiBACT’s ruling, Fiorentina said the onus was now on the authorities to deliver improvements, adding that for the club the Stadio Franchi project was “closed”.

Nardella’s office is now taking on the project in the belief that the MiBACT ruling still leaves sufficient room to significantly modernise the Franchi. There had been a campaign to ensure the iconic aspects of the stadium were preserved. Prominent modern-day architects such as Tadao Ando and Norman Foster were amongst the signatories of an appeal letter against the demolition of the Franchi delivered to Nardella by the Pier Luigi Nervi Project Association.

The tender documents for the design competition released today specify that applicants have until July 28 to submit their initial proposals. Those admitted to the next stage will be notified on October 31, with a deadline for final proposals set at January 31, 2022.

Image: Sailko/CC BY 3.0/Edited for size