Engineered for blizzards and blazing sun
The city of Astana is a Modernist vision rising out of vast grassy plains, raked by harsh Siberian winds. Extremes in weather range from +35°C (95°F) in summer to a bone-chilling -35°C (-31°F) during winter which can last 9 months.
Built on the master plans of architect Kisho Kurokawa, a founder of the Metabolist Movement, Astana is the coldest planned capital city in the world. Our task? Design a multi-purpose sports and entertainment arena engineered with a singular sense of snow.
The Astana Arena is an elliptical 30,000 seat capacity stadium designed with a retractable roof which has to withstand a layer of snow twice as thick as in most corners of the globe. Its primary use is as the home to the Kazakhstan Premier and First Division league football teams.
The space was designed to allow the flooring to change, accommodating a wide range of other sports such as tennis and basketball and one that could easily adapt to host concerts and unique events such as horse parades and other equestrian performances. These reflect the rich local culture, rooted in a history of nomadic tribes such as the Cossacks. In fact, Kazakhstan literally translates to ‘land of the wanderers’.
Astana’s extreme winters posed a two-fold challenge to BuroHappold Engineering. The biggest priority was creating an arena to comfortably host a variety of events in the freezing depths of winter. However to execute such plans the project crews had to build the arena in the freezing depths of winter. Custom, climate-controlled tents were employed to allow the concrete to solidify properly in sub-zero conditions, to ensure a safe and timely completion.
BuroHappold was responsible for the concept design for the whole stadium and the scheme design for one of sports first retractable polycarbonate roofs of this scale.
The roof’s protects the field of play from the harsh climatic conditions, but it also allows the stadium to be used for many different types of events. When open, it provides natural light and ventilation, and when closed the stadium can be heated and air conditioned, ensuring a comfortable atmosphere for spectators whatever the configuration.
Metabolist architect Kurokawa believed large civic structures should merge social political theory with biological concepts for the benefit of the well-being of society. His designs often reflected organic, ‘living’ structures that in a sense breathed a life of their own. Tabanlioglu’s architectural response for the Astana Arena, with the dynamic nature of the retractable arena roof, allowance of natural light and fresh air, the ventilation systems, the organic shape – all of these elements breathe life and honour the vision of Kisho Kurokawa.
The main structure of the roof is composed of high strength steel while a mix of in-situ and prefabricated concrete elements were used in the construction of the stands to ease build time and save on site costs. The concrete structure provides an economical yet durable structure with good resistance against weather conditions, while sections of the east and west elevations are faced in profiled aluminium cladding, which gives the stadium a softly hewn, organic, aesthetic quality.
Today the FIFA and UEFA approved Astana Arena is the premier sports and events venue in the modern capital of Kazakhstan. The dynamic and dramatic nature of the design exemplify the vision and values of the capital’s founders, and is an iconic feature in Astana’s Modernist cityscape which serves its inhabitants with a year round destination facility.
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