Stadiafile Series: The Great Arena Roof

The Good. The Good.


As the gaze of a captivated audience locks in on the action below, a forgotten component of an arena is lurking above: the roof. Don’t worry if you are one of the many who don’t look up – often you’re not missing much. However, there are a few arenas out there whose designers put the time and consideration into designing beautiful roofs with creative structural schemes that are elegantly detailed and feature carefully coordinated components. As we will see, such roofs can greatly enhance the experience of watching a game and make for a far superior building, unfortunately though, these cases are rare and usually what sits above is not much to look at: a black steel armature, prickling with an assortment of lighting, catwalks, speakers and technical components.

The Bad. Tangled infrastructure at London’s O2 Arena (Photo: Stadiafile)

The care and coordination that goes into so much of architecture, concealing certain back-of-house elements, coordinating and aligning others, for some reason is forgotten when it comes to the roof, as if the thinking, “put it above, make it dark and no one will ever see it” prevails. It makes no sense. These roofs take up so much space, half the arena surface area sometimes, an enormous canvas just waiting for architectural fireworks, treating it as back of house is a waste. Spanning hundreds of feet, when done well these roofs soar above the crowd, greatly enhancing the atmosphere inside the arena. To equate an arena to a black box theater is misguided. A theater completely turns off the lights during a show, rendering everything other than the stage non-essential. Lights may be dimmed in an arena but are by no means turned off; the roof is as essential to the architecture of an arena as the seats, court or scoreboard so lets celebrate it.

Here in this series we will collect and dissect the world’s great arena roofs. Let us know your favorite, I know they are out there. First up, “The World’s Most Famous Arena”