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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Verona’s historic arena to get a new roof!

Compiled by Avinash Yadav
Drawings & Renders: Courtesy gmp
Read Time: 3 mins

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The architects Von Gerkan, Marg and Partners (gmp) and engineers Schlaich Bergermann Partner (sbp) have won the International Ideas Competition for a modern scallop-shell-looking roof over Verona’s historic arena…

The arena, which was built in 30 AD under Emperor Tiberius, is one of the largest and best-preserved amphitheatres dating from Roman times. It’s now an important landmark and tourist destination - a UNESCO world cultural heritage site, currently being used for operas and concerts.

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When a structure holds a historical and cultural significance, it becomes important that any new intervention does not take away from the original. Hence, the architectural design and ingenious engineering strike a balance to create a retractable and reversible roof structure, which – on the one hand – makes it possible to use the arena during bad weather and protects it against adverse environmental effects; and - on the other hand – respects the historic monument as best possible with least interference in the structure and appearance of the amphitheatre.

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The winning design includes a compression ring, which is clearly raised above the arena and holds the retractable membrane construction. The new structure covers the entire area of the amphitheatre in the shape of an ellipse and creates space for additional lighting and state-of-the-art stage technology.

An intelligent mechanism involving a fan-shaped movable cable network and the roofing membrane, protects the entire arena against bad weather, but can also be fully retracted into the compression ring, when the weather is more favourable.

The roof is closed in a two-step process in which the cables are moved out from their home position in the compression ring and the membrane extended along these cables; this configuration of the retraction mechanism that the designers claim “has never been built before”.

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Nevertheless, from tried-and-tested retraction mechanisms already in use at the stadium in Frankfurt and the national stadiums in Warsaw and Bucharest, certain elements can be re-applied and developed in this new configuration for Verona. Winches are used to move the cables from their parking positions to their extended positions along the oval compression ring. Once they are firmly attached in their final position, the cables are hydraulically pre-tensioned in the mechanical part of the parking area. Now the membrane parked in that area can be extended outwards in the shape of a star using radially acting cable winches. A few inches before the end position, hydraulic tensioners engage with the front moving trolleys and apply the required pre-tension to the membrane.

In this way, the view of the open sky is unrestricted, when the roof is open, preserving the open-air atmosphere. From the outside, the structure is barely visible, which means that the historic character of the Roman arena is retained.

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The jointly developed design was the winning entry of over 80 competing submissions from around the world. It now awaits further course of action.

Fact File
Design: Architects von Gerkan, Marg and Partners and Schlaich Bergermann Partner
gmp Design Team: Prof. Volkwin Marg & Hubert Nienhoff with Martin Glass & Nikolai Reich
sbp Design Team: Knut Stockhusen & Knut Göppert with Daniel Gebreiter & Chih-Bin Tseng
Client: Municipality of Verona Piazza Bra’ 1

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