ABBAtars reunited: The epic story behind the world’s largest demountable timber arena

From CLT to PEFC, discover how ABBA Voyage Is revolutionising the music industry.

Fri 24 Feb 23


ABBA Voyage, a revolutionary concert where music legends ABBA perform digitally with a live 10-piece band, takes place in the ABBA Arena. The purpose-built, state-of-the-art 3000 capacity arena located at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London is designed by Stufish Entertainment Architects.

The steel and cross-laminated timber (CLT) building used PEFC-certified timber for the structure and external rainscreen. The building has been conceived as a mysterious and intriguing object, which has been designed to be fully demountable.

The innovative demountable design of the ABBA Arena, the world’s largest temporary venue, showcases the potential of using PEFC-certified timber in construction, as well as the advantages of building in deconstruction from the start.

The PEFC-certified CLT panels, produced and supplied by Austria’s Hasslacher Norica Timber, are used for the structure and external rainscreen. UK-based Xylotek and Glulam Solutions provided technical design, procurement, and installation. The CLT panels used for the auditorium are up to 9.9 meters long and consists of 1650 unique panels. The auditorium is four storeys tall, with a footprint of approx. 80 x 50 meters, designed to fit 1,650 seats and space for a standing audience of 1,350.

Xylotek and Glulam Solutions played a key role in the design, procurement, and installation of the PEFC-certified timber structure and external rainscreen, creating a sustainable and circular mindset with a view to both the building’s future reuse and carbon capture. (Photo credit Dirk Lindner and Johan Persson)

The PEFC-certified larch used for the timber rainscreen covering an area of over 7000sq meters was sourced from French supplier Piveteaubois. The screen consists of 1400 finger-jointed larch fins with a total length of about 15 km, and incorporates an insect mesh. The timber was factory fire-treated and stained with a pre-grey accelerated aging oil to homogenize the timber as it ages naturally towards silver-grey.

Xylotek also worked on the demountable timber rainscreen that envelops the arena. It was pre-assembled into 204 independent panels, each optimized for road transport to the site and for future relocation of the theater. A key challenge was to maximize the ease of disassembly of the structure to allow for its future relocation.

The original scheme design had around 144 tonnes of steel plus 630m³ of CLT but was reconfigured by Xylotek to 900m³ of CLT, which approximately halved the embodied carbon. The ABBA Arena is being hailed as the world’s largest demountable temporary venue, with the structure designed to be fully demountable.

The ABBA Arena’s external structure that braces the steel dome roof and auditorium is clad with a porous screen of timber battens. The large ABBA logo is integrated onto two facades with LED light strips following the timber. The PEFC-certified larch is designed to create a sustainable and circular mindset, with a view to both the building’s future reuse and carbon capture.

In conclusion, the ABBA Arena is a perfect example of a fresh approach to timber design. It built in deconstruction right from the start and demonstrates a sustainable and circular mindset, with a view to both the building’s future reuse and carbon capture. By using PEFC-certified timber for the structure and external rainscreen, the building is a prime example of how timber can be used in large-scale constructions while still retaining the core value of sustainability.

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