Fulham yesterday announced the club's hiring of Heatherwick Studio for work on the redevelopment of the Riverside Stand. As has been previously reported, the proposed expansion will bring the Craven Cottage capacity to 30,000, up from the current 25,700. Fulham describe the firm's involvement as the contribution of "significant expertise to the proposed scheme" so it remains to be seen how this will impact the ultimate design. As Cottagers Confidential reported in January 2015, there was speculation that work would begin sometime in 2016, and while no date has yet been released, this represents a concrete indication that work may begin sometime in the relative near-term.
As FulhamFC.com notes, the Heatherwick Studio designed the Olympic Cauldron for the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and "is currently working on large-scale architectural projects in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, America and the UK including new headquarters for Google in California and the redevelopment of the David Geffen Hall, home of the New York Philharmonic."
Given the firm's portfolio of modern works, Fulham fans will be eager to see how a modern Riverside Stand will blend into the very traditional look and feel of Craven Cottage. Designing a modern stand that will fit well with the iconic Johnny Haynes Stand in particular may pose design challenges, but Fulham will surely be keen to avoid any replication of the many modern stadiums that are entirely devoid of character or distinction. Should a modern design in anyway similar to the firm's other work be implemented for the new Riverside Stand, Craven Cottage should boast a very unique mix of the historic and the modern. Regardless, it is worth browsing some of the firm's work on their website.
From a financial standout, details are scarce regarding the projected cost of redevelopment. A story from June of 2015 revealed that the redevelopment required the club to purchase land on the River Thames from the Port of London Authority for an undisclosed price. This acquisition and the completion of the Riverside redevelopment would also lead to the completion of the river walk Putney and Hammersmith in West London.
Whatever the financial costs involved, Fulham's main business priority must remain regaining promotion to the Premier League. The redevelopment of the Riverside Stand must not become a distraction. As long as football remains the focus, however, here's hoping that a shiny new Riverside Stand will greet Fulham on their (eventual) return to the top flight.