Smartform Architecture: Incorporating inspiring design and immersive technologies into sporting venues to elevate the fan experience

Date: 12-Feb-2024
Creating an optimal fan experience and leaving a lasting impression is the most important aspect of Smartform’s philosophy. The Melbourne based architectural design consultancy specialises in projects that promote innovation, from art installations and small-scale landmark structures to complex major sports and transport infrastructure.
Smartform Architecture: Incorporating inspiring design and immersive technologies into sporting venues to elevate the fan experience

Smartform stands out from the crowd because of the team’s appetite for harnessing smart technologies to design and deliver iconic and unique major sports and entertainment precincts that push the boundaries and perfectly balance aesthetics and function.

Smartform is an ASTN Premium Member. ASTN assisted the Smartform team to participate in the World Expo 2022 in Dubai. The founders also participated in the Global Victoria and ASTN-led business matching mission to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and London in 2022.

40 years’ experience in the design and delivery of award-winning projects

Architect and Founding Principal Chris Smiles began his career in London where he spent 10 years working on landmark projects. This included the highly innovative award-winning Treetop Walkway at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, the London 2012 Olympic Games Visitor Centre, Jeddah Sports and Heritage Masterplan and the Kings Cross Station Enhancement. It was these projects that sowed the seed that eventually inspired him to start his own venture.

Smiles visited Australia in 2010 to attend The Ashes test cricket series and fell in love with the relaxed lifestyle. A unique opportunity arose to be involved in the Adelaide Oval redevelopment so he made the move which would eventually springboard his career. This is where Smiles met Joachim Clauss and the two went on to lead the design process on award-winning sporting projects, such as the Sydney Cricket Ground, Optus Stadium, AAMI Park and the King Abdullah Sports Program.

In 2017 the duo co-founded Smartform and the practice has undertaken and delivered world-class projects across numerous sectors, growing steadily and developing long term relationships with government bodies, national sporting organisations and key figures in the sport, leisure and entertainment sectors.

“Where Smartform really adds value is when it comes to elevating that environment, so it feels good, looks good and sounds good too. We aim to create visceral reactions and leave people in awe at how such a concept and subsequent structure came to be,” said Smiles.

Marvel-lous improvements to major sporting venue

Smartform recently completed the Marvel Stadium $225m upgrade project, which was produced in partnership with the AFL, Marvel and Disney, funded by the Victorian Government and in collaboration with project partners Grimshaw. This stadium is now deemed to be ‘one of the best sports and entertainment destinations in the world’. The upgrade, which has recently reached practical completion has revived the stadium, precinct and public realm and improved connectivity between the city, harbour and nearby Southern Cross Station.

The fan experience at Marvel Stadium has been enhanced with major renovations to public food and beverage areas now connecting into the arena and overlooking the field of play as well as more hospitality spaces to catch up with friends pre, during and post-game. There is a new sensory room and changing places facility ensuring Marvel Stadium is a place that welcomes people of all abilities, as well as additional bicycle parking facilities to promote sustainable transport.

Smartform’s progressive approach is harnessing immersive tech to heighten the fan experience

Smartform set out to stay true to the ambition of the project – capturing the essence of Melbourne’s sporting culture and providing a contemporary sports and entertainment venue that will be a 365-day destination for all Victorians and visitors.

Fan experience sits at the heart of Smartform, which is why it brought Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality into the stadium design process – overlaying a virtual experience with the physical experience.

“We’ve lent on the benefits of technology every step of the venue design process. Before delivering the building, we were using computer concept modelling and computational design process, which mixes two worlds to more tangibly show the client our end goal. This enables more effective discussions up front to iron out any issues early on. On the ground we created novel 3D immersive environments for attendees using virtual reality and augmented and mixed reality and wearable technologies to create a sense of space and intrigue,” said Joachim Clauss, Founding Principal, Architect, Smartform Architecture.

Gillon McLachlan, AFL, Chief Executive Officer recently gave a glowing endorsement for Smartform by saying, “The designers have captured our desire to amplify the stadium's ability to host multiple events across a calendar year and ensure fan experience has been front of mind when designing the upgrade. By renovating the existing structure, it will provide a more environmentally sustainable way of building, as well as ensuring minimal disruption to fans,” said the AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan in an article on AFL’s website.

In partnership with AFL, Smartform is also working on the design for an Indoor venue called the ‘Field of Dreams’. The venue will be a technology-rich, immersive environment equipped to function as a state-of-the-art training facility for both youth skills development as well as strength and conditioning for elite players to achieve marginal gains in sport at the highest level. It will also function as a place for families and visitors, potentially hosting showcase events like the AFL Grand Final as an immersive live-site.

Cutting edge future projects delivered with guidance from ASTN

Smartform and Australian Sports Technologies Network (ASTN) are in the early stages of developing concepts for a Sportstech Innovation Lab. The facility will be completely fitted out with cutting edge technology and will be a state-of-the-art, highly-configurable and immersive space bringing together the worlds of sport, entertainment and leisure and converging 5G, AI and an array of IoT sensors and devices.

As part of the collaboration with the National Basketball League, Sport and Recreation Victoria and ASTN, the Smartform team, supported by Madid Venues, MI Global and PMY Group are completing a concept and feasibility study for an advanced, multi-purpose facility. This will become a new home for the NBL featuring a first of its kind, in Australia, ASB Lumi flex programmable glass floor system, complimented with LED walls and tuned for show court basketball events, 3x3 format. Whilst predominantly being a sporting venue, the facility will be highly configurable for other non-sporting immersive arts and cultural events, live music and performance and sports tech trade shows and conferences.

“This has been a hugely exciting journey for us, collaborating with the NBL, SRV and Victorian State Government, with our open innovation partners ASTN and University of Melbourne, in conceiving a facility that harnesses the most innovative sports technologies available in the market,” said Smiles.

Smartform Associate, Anya Lee is working directly with the project partners and had previously advanced its precursor, the Smart360 concept when participating in the ASTN Pre-Accelerator in 2023.

“Smart360 is a 360-degree immersive space. Designed using modular building components and adaptable digital infrastructure, the space is highly scalable and can be transformed into infinite immersive offerings. Smart360 has the capability to offer specialty training environments, virtual fitness, augmented training climates and e-sports,” said Lee.

Bidding for flagship sporting events

Smartform has thrown its hat in the ring for a $2.7bn project that will see the knock down and rebuild of the Brisbane Cricket Ground, commonly known as The Gabba, for the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.

“Winning these projects is about who can conjure up the most exciting and compelling vision. We look at ways we can leverage new technology to surprise and delight as well as create unique visual appeal, from the overall form of the building, down to the tactile details of the interior design. All this while achieving a functional and cost-effective design,” said Clauss.

The future is bright for Smartform. With ASTN in its corner and its proven excellence in architecture and sports technology, it is poised to reach the pinnacle of architecture and sports technology success at the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.

For more on information on Smartform please visit:


Podcast #57: Sportstech building the Coliseums of the future, with Chris Smiles from Smartform Architecture

Podcast #60: The sportstech revolutionising health and wellness, with Anya Lee from Smartform Architecture

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