What better way to make an impact than to achieve the impossible?
For 40 years, BuroHappold has defied gravity to realise the world’s most iconic tensile structures. From the 1985 Antarctic expedition tents, to world class sport stadia, to sculptural installations, to leisure resorts in the desert, we deliver spectacular structures that delight the human spirit.
Embracing the latest technologies our engineers adapt to meet the needs of our ever-changing world. Including developing our own in house software, enabling us to develop the dynamic, resilient and sustainable designs required to realise world class tensile structures.
The greater the challenge, the more it ignites our imagination!
It takes fearless innovation to design iconic tensile structures, and in depth knowledge to successfully deliver them. This rare combination of daring and diligence defines our work at BuroHappold, and was born from our earliest days as a practice.
In 1976, founder Ted Happold gathered together a group of engineers, who worked from a small office in Bath to tackle some of the world’s most complex engineering challenges. Collaborating with leading architects, such as Frei Otto and Mahmoud Bodo Rasch, our practice pioneered the use of lightweight membranes and tensile structures on projects of every scale around the world.
From the blossoming of the mechanical Pink Floyd umbrellas at concerts across the USA in 1977, to the ambitious scale of the giant umbrella that enclosed the Millennium Dome, it was realising iconic tensile structures that led creative engineers from across disciplines to unite under the global umbrella of BuroHappold.
Five of our favourites
We’ve worked on countless tensile structures and membrane projects around the world.
Over the years there have been a few stand out projects, from the world’s tallest to iconic projects of our era. Explore five of our favourites below.
Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre: the world’s tallest tensile structure
Every element of the Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre was designed to mitigate the harsh Kazakhstan climate, and provide the people of Astana with a sanctuary in which to enjoy attractions that include a beach and tropical rainforest.
Towering 150m into the Astana skyline, the central mast of this iconic structure is the mainstay of the 192 steel cables that support an ultra-lightweight ETFE canopy. Each steel cable can move independently in response to changing loads imposed by wind and snow, and the transparent ETFE canopy allows daylight to flood the 100,000m² interior of the complex, while protecting visitors from temperatures that can reach +35°C in summer, and -35°C in winter.
Crystal Bridges Museum of Modern Art: high performance design
Crystal Bridges is a masterclass in making complex engineering look effortless. Located in beautiful rural Arkansas, this elegant museum complex consists of a series of seven suspended pavilions connected by ethereal floating bridges.
Our engineers adopted bridge construction principles to realise the suspended pavilions. The roofs are a tensile cable net structure, anchored into the limestone bedrock of the landscape to stabilise the buildings. Their geometries are based on catenary shapes created by the deflection of these cables, which realise pleasing curved forms that echo the undulations of the natural surroundings.
London 2012 Olympic Stadium: record breaking results
The magnificent 88,000 seat Olympic Stadium was the site of many record breaking performances at the London 2012 Games. But to ensure these records were valid, wind speeds within the Stadium had to be below 2m/s.
We engineered a roof that would deliver these results, using the latest computer modelling software to develop a tensile structure based on the concept of a bicycle wheel. The outer steel ring supported the spectator seating, and connected to an inner tension ring of 10 steel cables which formed the central opening. This structure was then covered in 112 sections of lightweight membrane to provide shelter from the elements.
Millennium Dome: a landmark entertainment venue
Our pioneering concept for the Millennium Dome made it one of the most recognisable landmarks in the UK, and went on to support its transformation into the O2 Arena – which ranks among the most successful entertainment venues in the world.
Forming a giant umbrella over an exhibition complex, the iconic tensile structure of the roof is 320m in diameter and supported by twelve 100m tall steel masts. It is clad in 80,000m² of coated glass fibre fabric, and fitted with an additional inner membrane to achieve exceptional levels of interior comfort and acoustic performance.
Dresden Main Station: reinstating a major transport hub
The sensitive and innovative restoration of this major station transformed a crumbling relic in a memorable transport hub.
Our real challenge came in realising a new 30,000m² roof over the delicate 19th century filigree steelwork arches of the station. Engineers from our London and Berlin offices collaborated to develop a unique, lightweight membrane of coated glass fabric that rests comfortably on the original arches, while allowing daylight to illuminate the once gloomy station interior.