What do you need in the ultimate workplace? Spaces that foster creativity, supercharge a positive team dynamic, and bring people together in a way that creates success. This recipe is true for sporting wins as much as it is for business success. So, when adidas created such a space at its World of Sports headquarters in Germany, who better to test it out than the Germany national football team.
When the DFB (‘Deutscher Fußball-Bund’ – German Football Federation) started looking for a place for the Germany national football team to live and train during the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament, they wanted a space that would bring their players together and unlock a great team dynamic. adidas realized this was exactly the vision they had to further develop their state-of-the art campus workplace.
The challenge was on to create the ultimate hub for team building and creativity – a space that would be perfect for the Germany national football team but also for adidas staff and future visiting sports teams.
Finding the ultimate home ground among nature
The job of creating this unique and inspiring workplace fell on adidas project manager Joern Waechtler. His first task was to convince the DFB that the perfect location existed on the adidas campus – one which would connect with the adidas workplace vision, and meet the concept provided by the DFB.
“We looked at lots of locations around campus before we found the perfect one”, says Joern. “One idea was to convert part an existing building, but it just didn’t feel right.” Then, whilst exploring a wooded copse on the edge of the adidas site, Joern stumbled on the perfect spot. An area that hadn’t been properly developed on since the US Army vacated the site in 1992. “There were old roads, elements of the American military, a large asphalt carpark… but also this great connection with nature. Trees, shrubs, and views of green rolling fields. It felt like a secret place.”
The atmosphere of this ‘secret place’, and the secluded team village that Joern proposed they build in it, convinced the DFB that the Germany national football team should stay with adidas. For the duration of the European Championship, they would eat, sleep, train, and relax on the adidas campus in rural Bavaria, sharing the new ‘Home Ground’ space with the 6,000 staff who work there.
When the DFB came on board with this ambitious plan, the reality of what was required started to sink in. Joern had less than a year to build a secret hideaway village in the woods, from the ground up. “Honestly, the timeline was crazy,” remembers Joern, “I knew that to make it work I would need a very special team and some very special partners to help.”
The ingredients for the ultimate team
Peter Huber is the other main leader of the Home Ground project who worked alongside Joern before taking over from him. He reminisces about the experience with a twinkle in his eye and a wide grin on his face.
“The team worked in a completely open and transparent way. Everybody was ready to help. No one ever said, ‘No, I can’t do that. It is not my role’. The DFB were closely involved from the start, and so were our construction partners. In a team meeting of 20 people, it never felt crowded. Everyone had the attitude of ‘Okay, how can we solve these problems?’”
Peter says that the project forged some unlikely partnerships. “We knew that we needed the help of two construction companies, but they are competitors… fierce competitors. We thought this would be an obstacle, but it turned out to be completely the opposite. The competition became who could be more helpful… how far could they take their cooperation? Then, we saw this rubbing off on other people. Everyone saw these two competitors working together hand-in-hand and took them as a role model.”
Peter reflects on the one thing that made the team a success: “Trust in the team, and in each other, was so important. There were mistakes… sometimes we’d try something, and it just wouldn’t work. But we trusted each other that we would learn and find a solution. This was very powerful.”
The perfect environment for the Germany national football team
Using the key concepts of ‘home with friends’ and ‘living in the woods’ Joern worked with the DFB and Danish architects Cobe to create the design for a hidden village on the adidas campus.
“The key priority of the DFB was to encourage as many interactions as possible within the team whilst they were living in the team accommodation. That’s why everything was designed around this central ‘village square’ where people would continuously have contact with their other team members and support staff. Yes, there are bedrooms where the players can have privacy, but everything else is focused around the central hub to encourage those meetings.”
Peter explains how impressed he was by the level of planning and management going on behind the playing team, and how it influenced the design for Home Ground.
“Initially we planned to have mini kitchen hubs in each of the rooms, as well as a fridge for drinks. But the DFB asked us not to include these. Not having these facilities in the rooms would encourage the players to come to the main village hub for a drink or snack, where they would meet others – each interaction helping to build that team spirit.”
From the design of the restaurant and chillout area, to the layout of the health center and treatment rooms, to the sauna, and the sundrenched the terraces for evening yoga, everything has been designed to create an environment where personal interactions happen, and people feel at home. “If you feel relaxed and comfortable, then we have done our job correctly,” says Joern.
The advantages of this design were to become even more crucial when the realities of the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Germany.
5 Amazing Things the German Football Team Will Experience at Home Ground
- 21 new buildings made from the wood of 2000 trees (an amount re-grown in German forests every 7 minutes)
- 58 individual bedrooms
- More than 15km of pipes hidden under the earth.
- 3 parallel physio treatment areas
- 10,000 square meters of new stadium turf, weighing more than 600 tonnes
Corona delays weigh heavy
“The first time we really started to feel that we were going to achieve what we set out to achieve was in March 2020. Up until that point we had been running construction through a very, very wet winter. It was all rain, mud, and more rain. But when spring finally arrived, we started to feel that ‘yes this is going to be really special,’” explains Joern.
It was at that crucial moment that coronavirus hit, Germany locked down, and the news came that the Euro 2020 tournament was going to be postponed. Joern remembers that time with a grimace. “This was a very tough moment for the team. We felt like we were running a marathon, we were in the last 400 meters going at full speed, and then somebody says said, ‘Okay, you must stop now.’”
Peter agrees, “From one minute to the next, the goal disappeared. You don’t know how to react in that situation. I think it’s like you’re running very hard and suddenly you lose your shoes.”
It therefore came as an enormous relief when the tournament got the go ahead to take place in 2021, despite the added complication of playing the competition in Corona-times.
A peaceful environment which looks after the health and well-being of the players suddenly became even more important when it was confirmed that the Germany national football team and their support staff would be in a bubble for the duration they are in the tournament (up to one month). The location of Home Ground on the adidas campus, means that the players can go to the gym, explore the site, and train on the Adi Dassler Stadium pitch, just meters from their accommodation.
Green, green grass of Home (Ground)
“Part of the reason the DFB decided to come to our campus was that we had this great football pitch where the team could train.” remembers Peter Huber. “We always knew the turf was in great condition, but it needed to exactly match the quality of the grass at the stadiums where the team would play their matches. The highest quality, international-level, football stadium turf. It was a tough decision, but eventually we decided that we needed to change the turf on our adidas pitch.”
There are only a few companies in Europe who can supply international-standard football pitch grass in the quantities that was required. Fortunately, one of them is based in the Netherlands and had available stock. So, on a sunny week in April a convoy of lorries rolled onto campus carrying a collection of specialist machines, and more than 600 tonnes of newly cut turf.
“I never knew football turf was so technical… the soil underneath the grass is mixed with volcanic ash. When the team laid the new grass from the huge 2m long rolls, it was impressive to witness. This team worked so fluidly, every person knew their role. It was like watching a well-trained sports team in action. In two days, they had done the whole pitch. Soon the first ball will be skidding across the grass, struck by players in adidas football boots.”
The legacy of Home Ground
Once the footballers have left Home Ground, the space will be reconfigured into its new function: Part team-building venue; Part workshop space; Part temporary accommodation. Project manager Joern believes the staff who use the space will benefit from the same enriching and creative atmosphere felt by the Germany national football team. The same unique atmosphere that he and his team felt as they worked on the project.
“I hope that Home Ground will be used to bring people together from all over the world, where they can work with each other to create amazing things. After all the time spent looking at people on screens this year, it is nice to think of people using this space to be creative face-to-face. To be inspired by the surroundings and the architecture, and to solve problems with the spirit of cooperation that we felt as we built Home Ground together.”
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