According to reports, Newcastle United has spoken with Populous, the architects of Tottenham Hotspur’s £1.2 billion stadium, about redeveloping St. James’ Park. That’s according to Mark Douglas of the i, who says the Magpies are eager to continue expanding their residence’s capacity to more than 60,000.

With Eddie Howe’s team selling out every home game this season, the demand for tickets off the field has increased. Christopher Lee, managing director of Populous, has previously collaborated with PIF on several projects in Saudi Arabia and says he would “bite your hand off” to work on a project like St. James’ Park. It’s important to note that while many other parties are probably eager, the Magpies have not yet made a decision regarding the stadium expansion.“In my career I’ve had a few jobs where people think it’s impossible,” Lee told the i. “The Emirates was built on a trainline, [the site] is a triangle with no access. We thought that was difficult but it feels like every consecutive job after that gets more and more difficult.

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I’m reminded of the potential St. James’ Park redevelopment by the Dublin Aviva stadium. They also refused to relocate because, although the stadium could hold 52,000 people, most people chose to stand there. On the same location, they desired a stadium with 52,000 seats, but there were obstacles to be solved.

The right to light [for those buildings] is inalienable in Ireland, and there are heritage buildings with grade one listings in both the north and the south. You can purchase to make up for it elsewhere, but not in Ireland.

So what we did was map the area in three dimensions; this is known as building information models, and it allows you to compile all of this data into a report. After that, you have an envelope that you can use to design.

That’s probably where I would begin with St. James’ Park. Leazes Terrace is one example; it is located inside a conservation area and is Grade 1-listed. That will include, among other things, the historical and contextual background and the right to light. That’s the challenging part.

Lee continues, The only things that could really expand at the current site are the East Stand and the Gallowgate, and that would be pretty vertical, which is not a bad thing. Because it’s constrained by those limitations rather than the whims of an architect, you would end up with some really interesting bowls, and I believe that’s the part where you could start to get really nuanced and create something with genuine authenticity.

Although the analysis is still pending, you could certainly go into more detail. It’s a really fascinating task. It makes sense to expand to the East Stand, which is where you should do so as well. However, since it was the only way we could obtain the rights to light for the stands to the north, you might wind up in a situation similar to what we had at the Aviva, where there is a tiny North Stand.

You could easily surpass 60,000 even with those limitations, which is something you would want to do because there is obviously a demand for it. Newcastle made a wise choice, in my opinion, to remain at St. James’ Park.

The attitudes that existed a few years ago have changed. Real Madrid’s enlargement of the Bernabeu is a prime example. They would have probably said, This is way too hard, let’s move to the outskirts of Madrid, sell the site off, and make a fortune, twenty years ago.

I believe that most people prefer the structures in their neighbourhoods, and yes, that does add a great deal of complexity. Instead of having neat, level sites, it forces us architects to work a little bit harder. However, because I’m an architect, I find these more difficult jobs to be both much more challenging and interesting.