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Moveable Surfaces
My first look at an indoor stadium in 1986 resulted in a design which was based  around the concept of a moving real grass field ( like the tray in a canary cage) where the whole field, 126 x 78m for rugby union, is contained in a tray which in turn is mounted on railway tracks so that it can be moved in and out of the stadium. Such a field weighs about 5,000 tonne and needs nine rows of track. Ideally the field should be 4m above the concrete floor below, which allows for the drop in sightlines when the stadium is converted to court size uses and which allows the continuing set up and breakdown of a trade fair while the field is inside. The field can be inside for three days without harming the grass.

If all the lower level seats are mobile (a la Kingdome) then the field in its outdoor position, where it normally lives so that the grass can grow, can be used as an outdoor facility for up to 15,000 spectators, leaving behind a 22,000m2 space suitable for trade fairs and public exhibitions.
Obviously a wide range of events can be catered for, from trade fairs to concerts to court sports to full field sports to motor sports, thus maximising    the use and the revenues.

Ron Labinski & HOK Sports

When I first worked with Ron Labinski (HOK Sports of Kansas City, Missouri) in 1986, I began to become more real about the requirements of an indoor stadium. By 1991 the concept had been refined and had evolved to the extent that it was readily accepted as viable by event managers.
HOK Sports have been the major stadium architects over the last 15 years. Ron Labinski was once described by Time Magazine as the world's foremost stadium architect.
Ron Labinski & HOK Sport

Real grass field indoors

With regard to the grass field we ran light deprivation trials based on what some of N.Z.'s grass experts thought in terms of species, soil and drainage  (we have some of the best grasslands/pasture research people in the world  in N.Z. because of our dependence on agriculture). Groundsman George Toma at Royals Stadium, Kansas City, also contributed some valuable insights. We ran the trials at a Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries research station under the supervision of Pete Smith, consulting biologist. We have no doubt that the system as tested will work for Auckland, and we believe we can design and  test successful solutions for other climates and environments.

An 80m hole in one end

The field requires an opening in the dome 80m wide. This could be an 80m span bridge which has been designed to carry the reactions from the dome. However, I've left enough holes in domes and worked with enough dome fragments to know that a hole can be left in the dome and it will not compromise the structural integrity of the dome as long as suitable edge stiffening is provided, along with node hubs which have full moment capacity around the edge of the opening. The hole just causes a redistribution of the reaction and axial forces, which can be analysed and allowed for in the design. (I have also had the experience of two large holes in a dome, which combined with insufficient moment capacity in the edge node hubs turned the whole structure into a giant nut cracker mechanism.)


10v superellipsoidal icosahedron

The dome for a stadium
Later a large dome was designed in 1991 for the Auckland Superdome project. 

It had the following geometry features:

v  = 10 frequency
R  = basic radius  = 115m

Xmax = maximum width  = 168m
Ymax = maximum length  = 219m
Zmax = maximum height  =   52m above truncation plane

stadium dome elevation
10v oblate super-ellipsoidal icosahedron.

 The dome was designed to span from ground to ground, built first to act as an umbrella for the rest of the project. It was designed to be built from timber, plywood and LVL.
There is a considerable surface area saving compared with the "lid on a cake tin" approach. 
The reactions are easily dealt with by an in-ground strip foundation rather than having to deal with these reaction forces many meters above ground.


During the 1986 study various issues arose, the most significant being vortex shedding. This and the 1991 study led to other issues/questions which are discussed below.

Vortex Shedding
+/- 0.5 Cpe in 50m square patches on the leeward side of the dome is the suggested allowance and combined with the wind load case governs the design. While not an expert in this area, my gut reaction is that there are better ways of dealing with this, if in fact it exists to the extent suggested, other than beefing up the structure. This could be handled by spoilers and/or aerofoils to minimise the problem rather than over design the dome.
Shell Analogy 
To what extent can the skin of the dome be used. Even though the dome is multifaceted, it deviates so little from a smooth shell that a shell analogy can be assumed (the struts/ribs then are stiffeners to prevent buckling). The whole structure fits inside the normal criteria for shell thickness versus span. It may be a matter of dealing with minor eccentricities. Is a shell analogy a better way of analysing domes of this size.

folded plate analogy
Folded Plate Analogy
The dome structure could be considered as a series of folded plates, with each folded plate being the area inside node-centroid-node-centroid, and considering the strut and skin as a composite section.

Tension rods/cables
The addition of steel rods or cables could be considered. These would be attached from node hub to node hub and would be housed in the V-gap left between 1/2 struts (triangle boundary members). They would provide the tension capacity required by the governing load cases, with the balance of the structure dealing with the compression forces.
Carbon Fibre/Epoxy
Could Carbon Fibre/Epoxy be used to help with tension forces and develop the shell analogy ideas.

In general, the optimised solutions have not been considered (including optimisation of geometry) and any costings we have done have always been based on very conservative preliminary design criteria.


tacoma dome, washington, usa

The world's largest timber dome at Tacoma, Washington, U.S.A
Cost Effectiveness of a Large Timber Dome
In 1990 we could build a timber dome shell, 10v superellipsoidal icosahedron, 210x170x55meters high for $18mNZD. Temcor quoted us $27m NZD for the same in aluminium and Elspan (Hong Kong) quoted us $24m NZD for a Strarch type of structure in steel. 
I believe the large timber geodesic is yet to take its place - I've confirmed structurally that 1200m diameter is feasible using existing timber and dome technology.
The economies are all to do with strength to weight ratio.......
..........and then strength to weight to cost ratio.
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