Saturday, 14 April 2012



Engineering Genius - Sport, leisure and the arts
Construction Week Online, 13 April 2012.

1. Ski Dubai

New Picture (18)Ski Dubai

Dubai’s summer is one of the most brutal on earth, so the idea of creating a fully-fledged ski and snow park, complete with everything from black diamond runs to nursery slopes, must have seemed pure madness when it was proposed in the early 2000s.

Developed by Majid Al Futtaim as part of its Mall of the Emirates development, Ski Dubai opened in 2005 after a two-year construction period.

Construction of the building included a reinforced concrete frame for the lower two thirds of the slope, from ground level to 30m. The final stage of construction involved a two-day strand-jacking of the steel-framed uppermost section. The 3,000t section was actually built at ground level and hauled vertically in to position using cable winches before being secured to twin concrete pylons.

The entire complex is enclosed under a huge temperature-controlled dome, where 30 tonnes of fresh snow ‘falls’ every night.

Building: Ski Dubai
Location: UAE
Opened: 2005
Developer: Majid Al Futtaim
Main contractor: Laing O’Rourke
Facility: Indoor ski park

2. Stockholm Globe

New Picture (19)Stockholm Globe

Stockholm’s Ericsson Globe remains the world’s largest hemispherical building 22 years after it opened to the public.

Designed by WSP Construction Design, the Globe is constructed on top of 48 curved main columns, and its Mero space frame carries the 110m diameter dome-shaped structure.

With an inner height of 85m, the Globe has a volume 605,000m3 and seating capacity for 16,000 spectators for shows and concerts, and 13,850 for ice hockey.

Groundbreaking on the project took place on 10 September 1986, and the doors opened just two-and-a-half years later. A twin glass gondola system was added later.

The Globe also represents the sun in Sweden’s massive solar system project, which stretches from Stockholm in the south to Kiruna in the north, 950km away, where the foundations for a monument representing Terminal Shock, a supersonic solar wind phenomenon, have been prepared. Neptune, the outermost planet in the project, is located in Soderhamn, 210km from Stockholm.

Building: Ericsson Globe
Location: Stockholm
Opened: 19 February 1989
Designed by: WSP Atkins
Facility: Concert and ice hockey venue
Developer: Stockholm Globe City

3. Bird’s Nest, Beijing

New Picture (20)Bird’s Nest

Nicknamed the Bird’s Nest, the Beijing National Stadium has as many detractors as it does fans. Some say the structure is a tangled mess of steel that is nothing more than an architect’s whim brought to life, while others claim its modern styling and design highlight have put China on the architecture map.

Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron beat 12 other submissions to win the contract in April 2003. The design for the stadium, which was based on a study of Chinese ceramics, uses steel beams to disguise supports for the retractable roof, giving the stadium the its tangled Birds Nest look.

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was the artistic consultant on the project.

Engineering consultancy Arup completed the structural engineering for the project, while the main construction contract was handled by the Chinese government. At the peak of construction, 17,000 people were active on the site.

The structure uses 110,000t of steel and was assembled by over 100 skilled welders, using a total of 2,000kg of welding rods. The stadium is enclosed in a double-layered membrane which makes it soundproof, windproof and rainproof. The outer skin was created using 884 individual ETFE panels, covering a total of 38,500m2. The inner layer consists of PTFE material. 1,044 panels take up 53,000m2.

Structure: National Stadium
Location: Beijing, China
Opened: June 2008
Design: Herzog & de Meuron
Structural engineer: Arup
Cost: $423m

4. Sydney Opera House

New Picture (21)Sydney Opera House

It is hard to believe that the Sydney Opera House is rapidly approaching its 40th birthday, such is its architectural and engineering brilliance.

The design of the Opera House and its instantly recognisable sails began in 1950, conceived by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who won a design competition in 1957.

The project was built in three stages. Stage I (1959–1963) consisted of building the upper podium. Stage II (1963–1967) saw the construction of the outer shells. Stage III (1967–1973) consisted of the interior design and construction.

Structural engineering was overseen by Ove Arup and Partners - and the company was responsible for finding an economical solution to the design and construction of the shells. Design work included one of the first ever uses of computers in a structural analysis application.

The shells were made by Hornibrook Group (Pty) Ltd., which was also responsible for construction of Stage III. Hornibrook manufactured the 2,400 precast ribs and 4,000 roof panels in an on-site factory, and also developed the construction processes.

Utzon received the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honour, in 2003.

Structure: Sydney Opera House
Location: Sydney, Australia
Opened: 20 October, 1973
Architect: Jørn Utzon
Structural engineer: Ove Arup and Partners
Main contractors: Civil and Civic (Phase 1); Hornibrook (Phase 2 and 3)

5. Wembley Stadium, London

New Picture (22)Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium has been witness to some of the most memorable music and sporting moments ever staged, so redesigning the venue was a monumental task for architects Foster and Partners and HOK Sport.

The Empire Stadium and its twin towers stood for close to 80 years and performing there, either on the hallowed turf or on stage, remains a badge of honour for those with the talent to do so.

The redesign was completed by Foster and Partners, with input from HOK Sport (now Populous), and the project broke ground in 2003 after the former twin towers were removed, much to the disgust of fans of the original stadium.

The most distinctive feature of the new building is the 133m tall steel arch that extends over the ground and is used to support the weight of the north roof and 60% of the weight of the sliding south roof.

The arch also ensures that there are no pillars inside the stadium that would otherwise obstruct views for the 90,000 seated fans. The project was dogged by delays and marred by cost overruns. It was finished a year later than planned at a cost of $1.2bn, one of the most expensive stadiums ever constructed.

Structure: Wembley Stadium
Location: London, UK
Finished: 2007
Architect: Foster & Partners, HOK Sport (now Populous)
Structural engineer: Mott MacDonald
Contractors: Brookfield Multiplex

6. Orbit Tower, London

New Picture (23)Orbit Tower

The spiralling red tower looming over London's Olympic Stadium has reached its full height. The final steel ring has been connected to the ArcelorMittal Orbit, making it 114.5m tall.

A tangled steel lattice incorporating the five Olympic rings, it is hoped the tower will help to attract a million visitors a year to Stratford's Olympic Park.

Visitors will be able to climb on the £22.7m structure to take in panoramic views across London's skyline.

It was designed by Turner Prize-winning artist Anish Kapoor and structural designer Cecil Balmond.

Three cranes lifted the final ring of London's tallest sculpture into position earlier on Friday. The structure is due to be completed in May 2012, well ahead of the opening ceremony on 27 July.

Visitors will be able to go up the 35-storey structure in a lift, and will have the option of walking down its spiralling staircase.

The attraction could generate up to £10m per year in revenue and create around 50 new jobs, according to the Olympic Legacy Company.

ArcelorMittal provided £19.2m towards the cost of building the Orbit, with the remaining £3.1m funded by the London Development Agency.

Reaction to the structure has been mixed; some have described it as amazing while others have dismissed it as pointless.

Height: 115m
Cost: £19.1m
Design: Incorporates the five Olympic rings and will offer visitors panoramic views of London.
Structural engineer: Cecil Balmond, Arup

7. Friendship Stadium, Gabon

New Picture (24)
Friendship Stadium

The new 40,000-seat capacity stadium in Angondjé on the outskirts of Libreville, the capital of Gabon, is a stadium funded by the Chinese to cement Sino-Gabonese relations and that hosted the final of the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. It is known currently as Stade d’Angondjé.

Stade d’Angondjé was one of the four stadia used for the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations, along with another Gabon construction project, Stade de Franceville, and two in Gabon’s joint-host for the competition, Equatorial Guinea, who used Estadio de Bata and Nuevo Estadio de Malabo. Gabon hosted the final in Angondjé.

The project, also known as the China-Gabon Friendship Stadium, was funded (as the name suggests) by both Gabon’s government and by the Chinese government. The Chinese investment in Libreville’s stadium is expected to give China leverage as it expands its raw material production in Gabon, with concerns in Gabon about controversial Chinese involvement in a Belinga iron ore deposit project particularly prominent.

China paid for the Libreville stadium in its entirety, with the work done by Shanghai Construction, while Gabon’s government funded much-needed infrastructure upgrades in the area around Angondjé in time for the 2012 event.

Groundbreaking: April 2010
Completion: November 2011
Contractor: Shanghai Construction
Capacity: 40,000
Area: 30ha

8. Guggenheim, Bilbao

New Picture (25)
Guggenheim Museum

Frank Gehry is the sort of architect you either love or loathe. However, his ‘melted’, deconstructed creations are more than pieces of art on a huge scale, and the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, is one such example of arty design blended together with well considered engineering thinking.

Designed to reflect the city’s influences as a coastal community, the shape resembles a ship while the skin is designed to appear fish-like. Gehry says the curves are intended to catch as much light as possible. It was designed using CAD software, which made it possible to not only push the architectural envelope, but also create phased and efficient construction stages.

The building was finished on time and on budget - a rarity in construction, particularly given the magnitude and ambition of the design.

Building: Guggenheim Museum
Location: Bilbao, Spain
Finished: 1997
Client: Guggenheim Foundation
Architect: Frank Gehry
Main contractor: Ferrovial, Madrid

9. Bolshoi Ice Palace, Russia

New Picture (26)
Bolshoi Ice Palace

The Bolshoi Ice Palace is a 12,000-seat multi-purpose arena in Sochi, Russia that is currently under construction. It is due to be opened in 2012. Upon completion it will host some of the ice hockey events at the 2014 Winter Olympics, along with Maly Ice Palace. It will cost $180.1m to build the venue, including the temporary works for the Olympics.

The Bolshoi Ice Palace is part of the complex of facilities operated by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). The complex includes the Bolshoi Ice Palace, Maly Ice Palace and a training rink. All ice hockey venues will be located in close proximity to one other, providing maximum comfort for athletes and guests of the Games. The complex will be covered by a dome. The design is based on the image of a frozen drop and will principally be silver once complete. After the Games, the Bolshoi Ice Palace will serve as an ultra-modern, world-class multi-purpose sports and entertainment centre.

Capacity: 12 000 seats
Area of construction: 18 534 m²
Total area of the building: 54 870 m²
Scope of construction works: 518 952 m³

10. Philharmonie de Paris

New Picture (27)Philharmonie de Paris

In April 2007, celebrated French architect Jean Nouvel was asked to design the prestigious Philharmonic Hall project in Paris.

The design was chosen by an international competition and will fill a small cultural void in Paris, since the city previously had no dedicated symphony hall.

The $260m hall is to be known as the Philharmonie de Paris, and is being built on a site in the north-eastern La Villette neighbourhood, beside the existing Cité de la Musique.

The 2,400-seat hall, which is expected to be completed in early 2014, will be the architect Nouvel's third large project in Paris. He has already been involved with the Institut du Monde Arabe and the Musée du Quai Branly.

The acoustics of the building were the responsibility of Australian firm Marshall Day Acoustics and Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics of Japan.

As well as providing a contemporary performance space, the Philharmonie de Paris will be the first dedicated professional music facility in Paris with offices, a library and space for exhibitions.

Line 1 features
Floor space: 20,000m²
Concert hall: 2,400-seater
Total cost: $260m
Completion: 2012

Top image: Another view of Ski Dubai (left) and Orbit Tower (right)

[Source: Construction Week Online. Edited and updated. Top image added.]

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