Soccer Structures

Design of the Estádio do Maracanã lightweight roof is based on the principle of a horizontally oriented spoked wheel, which creates an almost floating roof.

Global stadium experts and international structural engineering firm schlaich bergermann und partner (sbp) engineered a new state-of-the-art lightweight roof for one of the largest, most famous stadiums in the world. Known as the Estádio do Maracanã, the Estádio Jornalista Mario Filho in Rio de Janeiro is Brazil’s biggest stadium and considered the country’s “Holy Temple of Football.” The firm also has engineered roof structures for two other Brazil 2014 stadiums — the Mané Garrincha Estádio Nacional in Brasília, the country’s second largest stadium; and the new Arena da Amazônia in Manaus. Since 2002, including these projects, sbp has engineered 14 world-class stadia that have hosted the FIFA World Cup.

sbp was selected by Empresa de Obras Públicas as structural engineers to design and oversee construction on a new roof for the multi-purpose stadium. Including the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals match on July 13, 2014, the Maracanã hosted seven matches in all, more than any other venue in this year’s lineup. The Maracanã also hosted the closing ceremonies of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and will host the opening and closing ceremonies and football finals for the Brazil 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

Originally built to host the Brazil 1950 FIFA World Cup, the stadium was once the largest in the world. It historically packed in crowds as large as 200,000 — among the highest attendances ever seen in the history of the World Cup — but due to refurbishments and upgrades, the Maracanã now has a reduced capacity of 73,531 for Brazil 2014. Nevertheless, the nearly 500,000-square-foot stadium remains the country’s largest soccer venue.

Lightweight roof structure

The translucent lightweight, filigree roof totals more than 500,000 square feet and boasts a large oculus in the center.

Initially, the firm performed an analysis of the existing stadium structure, which revealed that the original cantilevered concrete roof had not only become inadequate in terms of its function, but also lacked sufficient long-term structural safety.

sbp’s new, lightweight roof is based on the principle of a horizontally oriented spoked wheel. The circular roof structure is comprised of high-strength cables connecting inner “tension rings” at the center of the circle to an outer rim, or “compression ring.” The cable “spokes,” which are allocated at the inner edge of the roof, are tightened between the outer compression ring and the tension rings. This approach creates a lightweight, almost floating roof.

This lightweight approach uses only a fraction of the steel used in a comparable-sized conventional stadium roof structure. sbp’s translucent lightweight, filigree roof totals more than 500,000 square feet and boasts a large oculus in the center.

For the Estádio do Maracanã, sbp designed a new roof structure supported by the existing reinforced concrete columns of the old stadium bowl. This design is an innovative version of the firm’s bicycle wheel approach, which features one compression ring and three tension rings made of lightweight, high-performance materials. The structure is covered with a polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)-coated fiberglass membrane.

“There are very few buildings across the world that have achieved such a splendid reputation within the rather short time of the stadium’s existence,” said Michael Stein, managing director of sbp in New York. “For many football fans, the name Maracanã stands for great moments in sports. We are delighted to be able to contribute to the redevelopment of the stadium for the 2014 World Cup, and to crown this international cathedral of football with a stunning new roof.”

The circular roof structure is comprised of high-strength cables connecting inner “tension rings” at the center of the circle to an outer rim, or “compression ring.”

Sustainable stadium

Arena da Amazônia is one of the world’s first arenas to earn LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council in Brazil. The venue, constructed for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, was built using only 5,700 tons of steel, a fraction of the typical steel quantities used for conventional sports and entertainment venues. sbp partnered with von Gerkan, Marg and Partners Architects (gmp) on the stadium’s design. To date, the two firms have collaborated on more than 40 stadiums worldwide.

sbp’s approach to the Arena da Amazônia used the specific geometry of stadia to create a double curved shell structure. The result is a system that has a lower carbon footprint and is made of lightweight materials just as strong as conventional building materials.

sbp developed a roof structure and façade that consists of diagonally arranged, cantilevering steel box girders that cover the spectator stands and together act as a grid shell-type structure. This is made possible by introducing a variation of sbp’s compression ring/tension ring engineering, where the compression ring is located on the inside edge of the rim and the tension ring is located on the outer edge. To facilitate transport and assembly, the welded box sections were fabricated in modular segments offsite.

2014 FIFA World Cup host stadia featured in new book and museum exhibit

Coinciding with the 2014 FIFA World Cup, sbp launched a new book and participated in a museum exhibition at Coral Gables Museum in Coral Gables, Fla. The book, 3+1 Stadia for Brazil (JOVIS Publishers), is the third in a series describing the firm’s work and expertise in engineering stadium structures. It offers in-depth commentary by the engineers and photos of the Maracanã stadium, Estádio Nacional, and Arena da Amazônia.

Coral Gables Museum’s “12 Stadiums, 12 Cities: Brazil, World Soccer Destination” exhibit ( focuses on the new stadiums and host cities of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. This original exhibit features images, architectural renderings, and models of the 12 stadiums hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup, host city information, and artifacts. The exhibit runs until Sept. 14, 2014

A secondary steel structure serves as a frame to support the PTFE-coated high-strength resilient fiberglass membrane cladding. The roof elements also serve as gutters to collect the large amounts of water expected during the rainy seasons. Design of the gutters facilitates rainwater collection to be used in the arena’s plumbing systems.

Arena da Amazônia was the host venue for four group-phase matches at Brazil 2014. Work on the stadium began in 2009 to meet the FIFA requirements for a 2014 World Cup venue. The stadium has seating for 40,549 spectators and will continue to attract tourists after the tournament by hosting concerts and cultural events.

“Arena da Amazônia, presented several structural engineering challenges, particularly to design a large cantilevering roof while reducing the typical — and costly — cantilever moments to a minimum,” Stein, said. “We are delighted to have engineered one of the first stadiums in Brazil to achieve LEED certification and to provide a lasting legacy of sustainability to this region.”

Information provided by schlaich bergermann und partner (

Posted in Uncategorized | August 12th, 2014 by

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