ABBA Arena, the Largest Temporary Stadium, Named Among World’s Top Projects

The design for disassembly structure uses a hybrid of steel and mass timber to develop a light weight stadium that can be reassembled in a new location.

Sat 16 Sep 23


The world’s largest temporary venue has been shortlisted as one of the top 35 global buildings released by the Institution of Structural Engineers in London last week.

ABBA Arena, which includes a massive cross-laminated timber roof that will house the Swedish band’s Voyage concerts, is located in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and has been designed for disassembly. 

The shortlist includes seven bridges, two footbridges and three mega stadiums, including Allianz Stadium in Sydney. The prize has a global remit, featuring entrants from Canada and China to New Zealand, Australia, Niger and the Netherlands. 

Of the 35 shortlisted structures, 16 are from London and include the £80 million renovation of Big Ben, and the redevelopment of the grade-II listed Battersea power station by the WilkinsonEyre architecture studio.

As revealed in February, the arena features a hybrid steel and cross-laminated timber hybrid structure.

Stufish Entertainment Architects designed the six-sided arena on a rarely used coach park next to Pudding Mill station on the Dockland Light Railway. 

According to lead architect Alicia Tkacz, the project “is the perfect blend of architecture and entertainment” and allowed the project team “to create an amazing immersive experience for the audience that has never been seen before.”

Designed to be both demountable and transportable, it has permission to be located on the site for five years, from 2022 to 2027, before it can be disassembled and reassembled in a new location.

An aerial view of the six-sided arena courtesy of Stufish Entertainment Architects.

The original scheme design, released in 2020, had 144 tonnes of steel plus 630 cubic metres of cross-laminated timber but was reconfigured in 2021 to allow for 900 cubic metres of cross-laminated timber. 

The design team successfully halved the arena’s embodied carbon by substituting steel for mass timber. 

The project features glulam beams that support the lightweight temporary structure. (Photo Credit: Dirk Lindner)

Mass timber is used at the open front-of-house concourse as a reconfigurable modular steel-glulam canopy and CLT modules housing food and beverage, retail, VIP lounge and cloakroom spaces.

Stufish Entertainment Architects provided renders of the arena’s side elevation.

The back-of-house accommodation is in prefabricated accommodation to the rear of the arena. These two features, thus, allow the structure to be reconfigured when it is relocated to another site

Cross-laminated timber panels, provided by Hasslacher Norica Timber, were used for the external structure, whilst UK-based Xylotek and Glulam Solutions provided technical design, procurement, and installation of connecting glulam beams. 

The glue-laminated timber beam system close up. (Photo Credit: Dirk Lindner)

The panels used in the auditorium are up to 9.9 meters long and comprise 1650 unique panels. The hall has 1,650 seats and space for a 1,350 “moshpit” and an 80 x 50-metre footprint. 

The arena features a 1,350-capacity moshpit with seating behind the standing room.

The roof, which covers over 7000 square metres, uses larch and is sourced by French supplier Piveteaubois

Known as the ‘rainscreen’, it consists of 1400 finger-jointed larch fins and incorporates an insect mesh. 

The massive external ‘rain screen’ is constructed from 1400 finger-jointed larch fins, which, if measured out, would be 15km long. (Photo Credit: Dirk Lindner)

It was pre-assembled into 204 independent panels, each optimised for road transport to the site and future relocation of the theatre. 

According to the design team, a key challenge was maximising the structure’s ease of disassembly for its future relocation.

The new award process has a strong focus on ESG principles

As reported by Wood Central on Friday, the awards winners will be announced at a special gala dinner on November 10 in London.

Following the successful introduction of a new judging process in 2022, shifting away from project-based categories, 2023 has seen an even greater focus on work which reflects and embraces contemporary social, ethical and sustainable standards.

Eckersley O’Callaghan designed the Black and White Building, which is central London’s largest mass timber building and is among the shortlisted projects. (Photo Credit: Eckersley O’Callaghan)

All entries have been judged by a panel of experts led by a new chair – Professor John Orr, Professor of Structural Engineering at Cambridge University and a Chartered member of IStructE. 

The panel strongly focused on ESG and has four key judging attributes that exemplify excellent structural engineering achievements, including:

  • Planet (environmental impact), 
  • People (social value and impact on end-users),
  • Process (technical innovation) and;
  •  Profession (collaboration and advocacy).

Professor Orr said, “These four attributes recognise the growing societal expectations of the need for a transformative, circular approach to material use and how the structural engineering profession leads the way.”

As society evolves and the economic and climatic landscape becomes more challenging, Professor Orr said, “We must acknowledge the significant influence engineers wield over the sustainability of buildings and their impact on people and the planet.”

The 2023 shortlist showcases the industry’s best practice, with Professor Orr “hoping that it serves as a source of inspiration for current and future generations of engineers worldwide.”


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