Brisbane Gets $2.7B Gabba Rebuild for Games, Push for Timber Stadium!

Update: Australia’s largest stadium ever rebuild could use timber shell and blended greenery instead of 'cookie-cutter' concrete.

Sat 25 Nov 23


A group of Australia’s leading architects have revealed their vision for a rebuilt Gabba.

The alliance includes HKS, Buchan and Nikken Sekkei and reminds the Queensland Government of the “once in a generation” opportunity to deliver an instantly-recognisable and “distinctly Australian” main stadium.

In an interview with the Courier Mail, HKS Director Andrew Colling said the revamped Gabba could feature a timber shell with blended greenery and sandstone instead of a cookie-cutter concrete stadium.

Mr Colling said the stadium could incorporate a parkland observation deck on its roof and a cocoon of timber and sandstone to “create something that’s not only distinctly South East Queensland but distinctly Australian.”

Andrew Colling of HKS Architects. (Photo Credit: Supplied by HKS Architects)

According to Mr Colling, “Timber will play a big role, and we’ll be celebrating the fact we love to be on timber verandas.”

“I’d go as far as to say there’s no reason we couldn’t turn the roof into a park with an observation deck looking back to the city.”

By opting for a greenfield (i.e. complete knockdown and rebuild) rather than brownfield refurbishment, Brisbane is now in an enviable position to create something unique.

The site is subject to an expanded Master Plan, which sees a more integrated and coordinated planning approach for the whole suburb and allows for resolving complex planning and development matters that unlock value for the surrounding communities (Image Credit: Queensland Government)

“We know the Gabba is not the easiest or cheapest choice for the government,” Mr Colling told the Courier Mail, “but it’s the right choice because if you look at where Brisbane will be in 20 years after the Olympics, it will be a global city.”

In February, the Queensland Government released updated details about the AUD 2.7 Billion Olympic Stadium rebuild, with the design including a roof providing 75 per cent coverage for fans and an enhanced viewing experience for 50,000 spectators.

Recently, the Queensland Government has been under scrutiny, with Red Union Support Hub’s Chris Dekker accusing the government of making contract details “behind closed doors.”

The Palaszczuk government has broken with precedent and will keep the Olympic Delivery Authority – the group that oversees Games infrastructure – squarely within the public sector.

Footage courtesy of @7News.

A state government spokesman said discussions with engineers, architects, contractors and industry bodies were underway as part of a project validation report (PVR) process.

“As part of the PVR process, the government is already consulting with some of the world’s best architectural and design firms, including Populous,” he said.

“Engaging local industry and generating jobs is a crucial priority for the Palaszczuk government as Queensland’s golden decade of opportunity continues.

“Brisbane 2032 has a Queensland-first procurement strategy, underpinned by the Buy “Queensland policy written into the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Arrangements Act.

Is a Timber Rich Stadium Possible?

According to Professor Greg Nolan, a timber design and construction expert, the answer is ‘yes’, but with caveats.

Professor Nolan spoke to ABC Radio Hobart Mornings host Leon Compton in May about building the new Macquarie Point AFL stadium in Tasmania out of timber.

Professor Nolan said anything is possible when pointing to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, where a 100m clear span timber roof was installed over the Sydney Exhibition Building – which hosted the basketball.

At the time of construction, the domed roof at the Sydney Exhibition Building was, at the time of construction, one of the largest timber span roofs. (Photo credit: University of Tasmania)

“You can build a timber-rich stadium, which means you use timber where best suited.”

Multi-storey structures have ground floors laid in concrete and steel, with timber on the upper floors.

“What has evolved is for the lower floors to have concrete structures, and then you spring up wood from above.”

Professor Greg Nolan has previously presented a Guide to Wood Construction Systems. Footage courtesy of @WoodSolutionsAustralia.

This timber has a spanning capacity which is suited economically, he said. 

“It’s the same with concrete. So you build the first floors to suit the car parking and make a platform to go up with timber from that point.”

Like the GABBA, Macquarie Point is an oval with unique construction challenges.

“You can get a whole range of timber products. You’ve got glue-laminated timber, cross-laminated timber, and you can form a plate or a slab,” Professor Nolan noted.

“Not too dissimilar to a tilt slab or precast concrete panel, timber can be manufactured in a factory, and because it’s timber, it can be routed within a millimetre of accuracy and can assemble on-site like a large panel set.”


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