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Scoring at the World Cup

Projects | October 1, 2014 | By:

Fabric helps meet tensile architecture, bioclimatic facade and acoustic needs for three 2014 FIFA World Cup™ stadiums in Brazil.

World Cup excitement reached a fever pitch in the summer of 2014 when soccer giant Brazil hosted the global event. The tournament returned to South America for the first time since 1978, and back to Brazil for the first time since 1950. Before a goal was scored or an assist made on the field, the design and construction of three new arenas was making its own kind of sports history. High-tech and highly engineered architectural fabrics were incorporated into the structural, climate control and video display components of arenas in three of the 12 cities that hosted matches in the 2014 FIFA World Cup™. Thanks to the inventive and resourceful incorporation of fabric elements into these three arenas, multiuse fabric architecture will likely become more common in the sports arena design-build world.

Multiuse fabrics, multimedia world

The three Brazilian stadiums relied on flexible composite material designed and manufactured by Serge Ferrari, La Tour du Pin, France, for its ability to be used for multiple applications. From structural integrity to video projection, the fabrics helped create structures that will become models for future stadiums and multiuse facilities around the world.

“Any time our materials are used in a tensile structure, they can become a structural member,” says Steve Fredrickson, sales manager at Serge Ferrari. “They can also be customized to be useful for other applications like climate control, acoustic comfort and multimedia use. With tensile roofs, in particular, our fabrics can be fully integrated into a building. It isn’t just hung or draped; it can actually withstand sun, wind and rain while providing support for the building.”

Serge Ferrari’s commitment to sustainable construction, energy conservation and the responsible use of resources made it a logical choice as the provider of tensioned fabric for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Arena Pantanal

Arena Pantanal is located in the midst of the southern Amazonian region of Brazil—the nation’s hottest—in the city of Cuiaba. The structure needed to do more than provide seating for soccer fans; it needed to provide a climate-controlled environment for spectators during the scorching midday hours.

Designers at GCP Arquitetos in Brazil turned to fabric applications to provide shade, design elements and a unique microclimate within the arena. Serge Ferrari used a facade constructed from Précontraint® 902 S2 material that was green in more ways than one: the fabric was created in a cactus green color and provided an off-grid climate control system. Its color and commitment to sustainability earned the arena the nickname “verdao,” the Portuguese word for green.

“The facade provides visual and thermal protection for spectators by being strategically placed to block the most direct rays of the sun from the north and west while providing natural ventilation,” Fredrickson says.

The ingenuity of the 15,000-square-meter fabric facade in Arena Pantanal lies in its more active climate-control system. While providing shade is an integral part of climate control, the facade aided in creating a microclimate within the arena by setting large, open basins of water adjacent to the active ventilation of the facade. The system took advantage of the natural air movement created to spur cooling through rapid, large-scale evaporation.

“The weather is so hot in Cuiabá that this water evaporates continually,” says Laura Nascimento, director of sales, Serge Ferrari, Brazil. “The ventilation provided by the membrane helps to continually disseminate this humidity throughout the stadium and provides a cooler environment for spectators.”

Specified requirements for the portals framing the terraces to be illuminated at night by LEDs were of three orders: to offer an aesthetic aspect through membrane dimensional stability, add a lightweight aspect to the huge steel structures, and to guarantee ease and speed of installation. Composite material recyclability through Serge Ferrari’s Texyloop process was one of the determining factors, since LEED certification of this stadium is underway.

Arena das Dunas

The new Arena das Dunas replaces an older soccer stadium constructed in the city of Natal in 1972. In the more than four decades since it was built, that stadium and the neighborhood had fallen into disrepair. Demolition and reconstruction of the arena was the flagship project of a larger urban redevelopment project. The stadium was so new that its ceiling wasn’t quite finished for its official inauguration in January 2014.

“The Type II fabric ceiling panels were installed at the very end of the construction project,” Nascimento says. “I believe only three of the 20 panels were in place at the inauguration. The entire ceiling was ready by the time the World Cup began, however.”

The unique appearance of Arena das Dunas was inspired by the spectacular sand dunes of the Rio Grande Do Norte region, where Natal is located. A tensioned fabric shell made of Précontraint 1002 T2 material envelops the stadium, providing aesthetics, thermal insulation, acoustic balance and natural ventilation, all while making use of natural light to illuminate the stadium.

“While the fabric mainly had an aesthetic mission (to conceal the metallic structure of the roof), it is more than just a finishing material,” Nascimento says. “It also provided valuable acoustic insulation and structural stability. Tensioned fabric was part of the Arena das Dunas from the architectural phase and has remained an integral part of the design and construction of the project from the beginning.”

Because none of the 20 panels was of the same size or had the same curvature, designers and engineers had their work cut out for them. The fabric modules also provided structural strength and dimensional stability, capable of carrying eight tons of tension per meter.

Arena Corinthians

Despite being São Paulo’s largest soccer club, with more than 30 million fans, and the second largest club in the nation, the Corinthians club didn’t have its own sports facility prior to the 2014 World Cup. Established in 1910, the team had been playing its matches at the Pacaembu municipal stadium for years.

The new arena hosted the first 2014 World Cup match on June 12, a particular honor to the working-class neighborhood of Itaquera, where Arena Corinthians is located. The stadium is more accurately called a facility, as it incorporates an auditorium, a museum, restaurants and other multi-use spaces. It’s also home to the largest video screen in the world. Constructed with Serge Ferrari’s Précontraint 1002 S2 fabric, the opaque composite material screened event images during the World Cup and will be used for other forms of entertainment and education in the future.

“The architect included Serge Ferrari tensioned fabric in his project for two main reasons: to artfully conceal the metallic structure of the cover, providing an elegant visual to be seen from the bleachers, and to allow the projection of images on its surface,” Nascimento says. “The architect insisted on a surface that was as smooth as possible—he didn’t want to see any welding or any other element between the panels.“ Brazilian firm CDCA—Coutinho Diegues Cordeiro Arquitetos designed the structure.

Serge Ferrari produced 30,000 square meters of opaque composite material for screening event images. The panels, whose flatness and dimensional stability are essential because they are used as video screens, conceal the structural steelwork and effectively block out all light sources. Seventy percent of the panels were fitted in June 2014, in particular above the west and east stands. Aesthetic, lightweight, durable and 100 percent recyclable through Serge Ferrari’s Texyloop process, the composite membranes ensure optimum visual, thermal and acoustic comfort for spectators.

The arena is an embodiment of the region’s economic dynamics, which, in the long term, should ensure development of transport infrastructures, educational facilities and the growth of private industry.

Jake Kulju is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis, Minn.

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