How a Stadium Looks
So many of the suburban stadia of South Australia and Victoria have since passed into occasional use or have become training facilities for big clubs which play their home games elsewhere. Their amenities are diminished; the paint is peeling and they are marked by a relative emptiness and silence. Gone are the days of big and dense crowds. Instead, the suburban grounds become the ‘spiritual home’ of a club. Perhaps footy teams are more itinerant than their fans would like to believe: Hawthorn for example have had bases at Glenferrie, Princes Park and Waverly, but now also call the MCG and Aurora Stadium (Launceston) home.
The stadium serves as the place in which we watch footy, cheer, shout and at our worst, abuse players, umpires and spectators. So often the stadium becomes a mere backdrop to the artistry of players and the heaving mass of spectators. Hugo’s stadia, show the grounds in their emptiness: after the crowds have left, or perhaps before they have arrived. All simple lines and subtle curves, Hugo forgoes the grandeur of the big stadia and takes pleasure in the functional and vernacular. And, as with the Alberton image above, he shows the local context in which a stadium (or, humbler footy ground) exists.
Mike Hugo, a Port Adelaide fan, studied architecture at university. Mike, with a background mainly in watching footy, has generally drawn Aussie Rules footy grounds, but, has recently made a design of the ‘Melbourne Rectangular Stadium’ on Swan Street. An interest in stadia facilitates an easy crossing from one code to the next and one state to the next, belying so much of the parochial nature of Australian sports fandom. Mike says, ‘I generally have an interest in doing designs of stadiums that are largely known by their geographical name. So, for example, I’ve done one of Alberton – home of Port Adelaide, Punt Road, Footscray and Carrara. The renaming of stadiums is an important part of branding and re-branding a club, but the fans themselves keep on referring to the stadium as it is known more commonly.’
Mike uses his old copy of Adobe Illustrator to draw Australian stadiums. ‘I am a fan of vector graphics and using simple forms to create the design.’ ‘It’s a challenge trying to reduce the feel and character of an entire stadium or footy ground into a single image and point of view. Sometimes there are elements you want to capture, but to distill them into a realistic point of view isn’t possible. The style I use also forces me to focus on the main elements of the architecture, but I also go to great lengths to make sure I capture the details accurately – like making sure I have the right number of rows in the EJ Whitten Stand. The first eight designs I created were quite similar in their viewpoint (the side of a grandstand with a view in the distance), whereas those since have been more varied, usually as a result of practicality or where the most distinctive viewpoint was. I prefer to be able to visit each place before I begin each design, but this isn’t always possible.’
The quickly-outdated nature of graphics programs corresponds to the nostalgia common amongst footy fans who long for the days of suburban footy. (see also essay on Paul Town). ‘The biggest seller at the moment is Footscray. Perhaps part of this reason is that I have linked the design to a charity run by Ted Whitten’s son, the EJ Whitten Foundation. So, all of the profit made from selling Footscray design goes to them.’
The idea to create Footy Places came about because I was interested in creating something for my lounge room wall that didn’t scream ‘footy’, but was obvious enough for people to make the connection. I also hadn’t seen anyone else attempt it, so I thought I’d give it a shot. As I’m creating something that can be purchased, it was also important for me that I didn’t infringe on any AFL trademarks such club names.
Like other forms of buildings, footy grounds typically reflect the architectural styles era in which they were built. You can find everything from ornate late-nineteenth century architecture, like the Fitzroy Cricket Ground grandstand at Brunswick Street, to the imposing concrete and steel stands built at Victoria Park in the 1960’s.’
While Alberton is obviously one of Mikes favorites , Glenferrie stands out as one of the most enjoyable to capture. ‘The Michael Tuck Stand is really unique and like nothing I’ve seen before. It was built in 1930’s and is a great example of Art Deco architecture. Since Glenferrie is no longer as home ground by Hawthorn and the grandstand is out-of-bounds, I hope that my design provides a bit of nostalgia for people that used to frequent it.’
Port Adelaide’s history as a club is largely linked to three main stadia: Alberton Oval, Football Park (West Lakes) and Adelaide Oval. Although Port Adelaide (since its entrance into the AFL) has only just moved to Adelaide Oval since its redevelopment, Port Adelaide played some of its SANFL grand finals at Adelaide Oval, such as the 1965 Grand Final, where Port defeated Sturt by three points in front of a crowd of more than 60,000 people.
’Most of the main memories I have of following Port during the more recent SANFL years, took place at Football Park in West Lakes. I would go occasionally to games at Alberton, but the big games were always at Football Park. This of course was a strange place. It was often cold and wet: there was no covering and the seats were metal benches rather than the individual seats we are more used to now, whether it be at Adelaide Oval or the MCG. I would travel there by car with my dad and brother. Despite this, it often felt a very solitary experience. Going to games at the Adelaide Oval is far more communal and there is far greater atmosphere before and after the game.
Mike and his family (three generations) are regulars at Adelaide Oval, the venue for Port Adelaide home games since 2014. ‘I can’t say I visited every venue in Australia, but Adelaide Oval would have to be my favorite place to watch footy’.
Since starting Footy Places over six months ago, Mike now has now created designs featuring 16 venues, but he’s unsure about the what to do next. ‘I am not sure where I am going with my designs at the moment. There is only so many one can do and present in a new light. There are still places I’d like to capture and I’m always getting requests. Whatever the case, they will always be on Red Bubble.’ I detect a slight ambivalence in Mike’s attitude towards social media and to promoting his designs. I get the impression he finds promoting his work a little too commercially oriented and detracts from the pleasure of talking, watching, and of course, drawing footy.
The AFL’s colonisation of the Australian rules landscape has seen the birth of new clubs: West Coast Eagles, Adelaide Crows, GWS etc and hybrids such as the Brisbane Lions. Old Victorian clubs, such as Hawthorn (Launceston), Melbourne (NT) and North (Hobart), are dispersing themselves to places far from their ‘traditional’ homes. Port Adelaide, the ‘winningest’ professional footy club in Australia, only came in to the AFL after the stage-managed arrival of the Crows: a team that could never fully be accepted by all SA footy fans. And with them, a stronger element of the SANFL footy narrative and history was brought into the AFL: a league so intent on asserting its modernness, yet also its – highly contrived – traditional-ness.
Mike’s designs present an irony in iconic stadia or footy grounds: the long neglected are shown afresh, the still new (Melbourne Rectangular Stadium) are of interest to places of such faded glories as Punt Road. Mike’s choice of angles and venues turns away from the bland, uniform designs of identikit stadia, which so quickly seem headed for the scrape heap after much ‘learned’ urban planning (VFL Park, Docklands). These stadia are Adelaide’s, Melbourne’s urban heritage and are ingrained in our memories of spending time with friends and families and quixotically investing our hopes and dreams in (only sometimes) great footy teams.
**Thank you to Chris Rees (see, Tiger Tiger Burning Bright) for re-tweeting images of Mike Hugo’s images of stadia.