Skip to content

April 13, 2015

Stadium & Arena Tensile Architecture

Tensioned cable and membrane architecture has been used to help mould and shape Stadiums and Arenas for decades. In fact Stadium & Arena Tensile Architecture can be traced back thousands of years to the original construction of The Coliseum in Rome, where retractable awnings are now known to have been used to form a roof shading structure called a vivarium, not that dissimilar in design to what we see on modern stadiums. The following video link shows you exactly how it would have looked like and how it would have worked:

Tensile Architecture helps create spectacular stadium and arena roof constructions which not only help maximise the use of the structure, but helps also create a memorable and emotional design connection between the building and its visitors. This is why international engineers such as Buro Happold and award winning international architects Populous , known for their breath taking engineering and designs, utilise cable and membrane tensile architecture to fulfil Stadium & Arena briefs which no other construction methodology can deliver.


Usage of Tensile Architecture within Stadiums

The usage of Tensile Architecture within Stadiums is both varied and adaptive. For most, the roofing element is the first design aspect in which Tensioned Membrane Engineering / Tensile Architecture is immediately focused on. However, as designers, engineers and architects further push the boundaries of design; tensile architecture is now also commonly being used for facia, awnings, wall structure claddings and architectural panelling due to its versatility and visual impact.

The ability to utilise a formable and pliable solid construction material, which can offer translucent or semi-translucent properties, makes tensioned fabrics an ideal solution for creating stunning structural elements with exceptional illuminessence capabilities. It was the Allianz Arena in Munich, designed by international architects firm Herzog & de Meuron and completed in 2005, when we first realistically saw how tensioned membrane architecture could be used to envelop a stadium design and create something truly unique and inspiring. Wrapped in translucent ETFE pneumatic cushion layer formations, the stadium has an iconic design which almost mimics that of a woven basket. However it is only at night when the stadiums tensile architecture truly comes to life. With its impressive array of programmed internal and projection lighting, the entire structure can alter colour in a blink of an eye, from a blue white to a warm almost tropical yellow, along with many other colours and variants, the stadium instantly transforms and attracts. We wish we at Shade Sculpture could say we had a hand in the Allianz Arena project in some small way, at lass we cannot, the credit has to go to another firm for that, unfortunately for us.

Installation of Stadium & Arena Tensile Architecture

The installation of stadium & arena tensile architecture is not something to be taken likely. Due to the inordinate amount and weight of the membrane fabric, plus the intricate engineering aspects, a fully detailed installation programme needs to be worked out and aligned with any current and on-going steelwork installations. Installation procedures, rope access requirements, carnage options, the chosen materials characteristics, together with regional and national work safety permits actually needs to be looked at and involved as early as possible within stadium design process itself.

As with most construction programmes, installation restrictions can and does impact on the design. So when you are working on a sizable installation project such the tensile architectural elements of a stadium, the installation team will need to have input into the engineering and fabrication aspects to ensure all restrictions and installation concerns are minimised. We have seen first-hand how by not involving the installers within the design and engineering process can and does have a significant knock on effect with installation time tables. Such knock on effects can very quickly turn, what was an on budget, on time….profitable project, into an extreme loss making exercise. Unfortunately, we have seen many Tensile Fabric Structure companies, including once brand leaders in the UK, Europe, North America and Australasia make this very mistake and be forced in to liquidation or bankruptcy; just because they didn’t fully embrace the installation process on such a large scale project. This is why at Shade Sculpture we automatically bring in our installation team and project managers in at the very beginning of any such large scale project.

Stadium Tensile Architecture Capabilities

Although we have considerable in-house skill sets and knowledge base, we know that stadium tensile architectural capabilities and requirements are unique to each project and each projects installation site. That is why we look to partner with particular companies known for their specific areas of expertise within Stadium & Arena Design, construction, engineering and installation. By doing so we can ensure such projects have the correct insight, offering the reassurance of success.

To find out more about Shade Sculpture and its partners capabilities within Stadium and Arena Tensile Architecture, simple call us on +44 (0)1249 848649 or email at