The new Allianz Arena football stadium in Munich, designed by Herzog and De Meuron, is a quite beautiful piece of work, which puts Norman Foster's compromised new Wembley to shame on several fronts. For a start, it's come in on time and on budget (for a quarter that of Wembley, actually), but also features innovations such as cashless payment, is acoustically brilliant, and its distinctive appearance has already been taken to heart by locals, who have dubbed it 'the rubber dinghy'. Some have put this success down to Jacques Herzog's apparent love of football - his understanding that the experience of being in a football stadium should be "as intense as possible ... almost like the Coliseum", and that all the focus should be on the field of play. But it's also the firm's continually pioneering work within the tightest of commercial confines that inspires so.
One of the most interesting features for me is the brilliantly-realised notion that the entire exterior of the stadium should glow different colours to indicate which team is playing at home - red for the shirts of Bayern Munich, blue for those of Munich 1860, and white for the German national team. It's a kind of 'communicating status at-a-glance' that I suggested might be useful in the iPod a few years ago, inspired by the work of Naoto Fukasawa. But this is both more subtle and on a far grander scale. Its sees the stadium as both a symbol and functional object interacting within the wider context of the city. Lovely.