Crazy Stadium Roofs Are Now a Thing. Here Are the Craziest

AFTER YEARS OF maddening rain delays, the U.S. Open finally bit the bullet and installed a gargantuan retractable roof for its prime venue, Arthur Ashe Stadium. The $150 million, 270,400 square foot addition, built over the last three years, consists of two 800-ton, steel framed structures, covered with teflon-coated fiberglass panels, that glide on 27-inch wheels along a track.

The topping closes in about six and a half minutes. Many believed such a huge appendage could never be built atop the marshy land of Flushing Meadows Park, but it’s resting on massive steel and concrete-filled pilings 180 feet below the surface.

01 Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta

The Atlanta Falcons’ Mercedes Benz Stadium will open for the 2017 season. HOK’s  steel frame structure, clad with ETFE (an especially strong, inflatable plastic composite) was inspired both by the Falcons’ angular logo and the oculus in the Roman Pantheon. Eight petals, which allow translucent light inside, slide past each other and open like a camera aperture in less than eight minutes. Now if the team could just fix its offensive line.

02 U.S. Bank Stadium , Minneapolis
The Vikings’ $1.1 billion U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in July, is built for the harsh Minnesota climate, but still manages to be green. Its angular, transparent ETFE roof admits copious natural light, rising to provide views of the downtown skyline to the west and lowering to transition into the low-density Downtown East neighborhood. The peaked roof forces hot air to rise, keeping the building naturally cooler. The pointy design, say its architects, HKS, also reflects the area’s strong Nordic influence. Could that be a Viking Ship heading for downtown?

03 Huangzhou Stadium, Huangzhou, China
Resembling a blooming flower, NBBJ’s Huangzhou Olympic Sports Stadium’s roof consists of 56 entwined, aluminum petals. Computational design helped the team use 2/3 less steel than a typical arena, a key strategy in a country that produces more steel than any other. The stadium is the centerpiece of an expansive site that includes playing fields, arenas, retail, a convention center, and an undulating park. The stadium is set to open next year.

04 VTB Arena Park, Moscow
Why settle for one stadium under a roof when you can have two? Located in Petrovsky Park, in the heart of Moscow, the project, designed by MANICA, includes a new indoor arena and the redevelopment of the existing Dynamo Moscow soccer stadium. Both are enveloped by a colorful, patterned roof, clad in polycarbonate (a synthetic resin) panels, inspired by, yes, a Fabergé egg. An inner, metal panel-clad roof layer allows for rigging and black out settings for concerts.

05 Qatar World Cup 2022 Stadiums
Qatar is planning to build some of the world’s most striking stadiums for its 2022 World Cup. Structures of note include the Al Bayt Stadium, whose dark fabric roof will resemble a Bedouin tent, and Zaha Hadid Architects’ Al Wakrah Stadium, a fluid, interwoven steel form recalling the hull of an Arabian dhow ship.

06 AAMI Park, Melbourne
Cox Architecture and Arup engineers employed what they call a “Bioframe” design for the stadium’s roof, a series of geodesic domes made up of rigid triangular components, which covers most of the seating area. The Buckminster Fuller-esque structure affords rugby and football spectators unobstructed views, free from pillars, walls or other supports. The design also required 50 percent less steel than a typical stadium roof, say its architects.

07 University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Eisenman Architects and HOK Sport designed this stadium in Glendale, Arizona, home to the Phoenix Cardinals. The UFO-esque, retractable roof, made of translucent “”Bird-Air” fabric, opens in 12 minutes. Moving on steel rails, it’s the first such ceiling to operate on an incline. But perhaps more impressive, in order to maintain natural grass indoors, the facility has a retractable, 20-million-pound field that travels 740 feet from outside the building in less than an hour.

08 Wimbledon Centre Court
We can’t talk about the U.S. Open without mentioning Wimbledon, whose Centre Court recently got its own hydraulically-operated retractable roof, with steel trusses supporting a folding, translucent fabric skin. The surface, which closes in 8-10 minutes, allows natural light to reach the grass court, and maintains the overall airy feel of the space. It’s imbedded with supplementary lights, while an air flow system removes condensation from inside the seating bowl in a matter of minutes.

09 University Sports Centre, Shenzen, China
German firm gmp Architekten designed these faceted structures—consisting of endless triangles of glass and steel— for the 2011 World University Games. Their glowing, crystal-like appearance is meant to evoke stones and gems from a Chinese garden. The firm planned the entire district, which places varied sports venues within a modulated landscape of parks, promenades, bosques, and ponds.

10 Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban, South Africa
Built for the 2010 World Cup, the stadium’s roof focuses around a 105-meter-tall steel arch that carries the weight of the building’s inner fabric membrane. The top of the arch can be reached via a built-in funicular, the south side has a 550-step “Adventure Walk,” and the center contains infrastructure for a bungee-esque contraption known as the “world’s largest swing.”

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