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Stadio San Nicola
Strada Torrebella, Bari, Itlay
associated engineer
Ove Arup & Partners
Studio Vitone e Associati
Peter Rice
date  1987 - 3rd June 1990
UK era  Modern  |  category  Stadium/Arena/Pool  |  reference  Tn858955
Constructed for the 1990 football World Cup, the Stadio San Nicola is a prominent Italian landmark. Also known as Stadio di Bari and Stadio Nuovo, it is the home of local club AS Bari. The conceptual design was a collaboration between architect Renzo Piano Building Workshop and engineer Ove Arup & Partners. All spectators are seated, and no seat has an obscured view.
Bari is located on the Adriatic coast, on the plains of Puglia, in the south of Italy. Stadio San Nicola, named after Bari’s patron saint and constructed for the Comune di Bari, lies south west of the city. It occupies a greenfield site and was one of the venues for the 1990 World Cup — Bari’s existing football ground, Stadio della Vittoria (1934) only held 30,000 people — too few for a World Cup audience.
The stadium accommodates a football pitch, an eight-lane athletics track and seating for 58,000 people. The track was a late addition, following a request by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI). There is no provision for standing spectators, in accordance with governing body FIFA's (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) current regulations.
The plan form was determined by considering the distance any individual spectator would be from the action. For football, 190m was considered the maximum distance desirable, so arcs of 190m radius were drawn from the corners of the pitch to set the outer boundary of the seating. The stadium is elliptical in plan, symmetrical about both axes.
Constructed by excavating into an artificial mound, the arena's playing surface is 2m below natural ground level. It is surrounded by two rings of concrete tiers, which are sheltered by a tension membrane roof supported on curved steel cantilevered ribs. The principal architect, Renzo Piano (b.1937), envisaged the upper tier floating spaceship-like over the manmade crater of the arena and its lower tier. The detailed design of the foundations and concrete work was undertaken by engineer Studio Vitone e Associati, and Arups took responsibility for the roof, led by Peter Rice.
A narrow dry 'moat' runs around the playing area, separating it from the seating as a security measure. Behind this, the lower tier rises at a constant angle and circles the stadium. Its concrete substructure houses restrooms, ticket offices, information points, concessions, player facilities, machine rooms and emergency exits, and an access roadway that rings the stadium out of sight. On the exterior, the slope of the grassed mound rises to meet the upper level of the lower tier. Car parking areas are ranged around the mound.
Founded on the site's underlying limestone, 52 pairs of rectangular in situ concrete columns rise through the substructure to the distinctive concrete upper tier and its cantilevered roof, which together make a 'clam' shape in section. The columns support a pair of annular in situ concrete beams, creating two continuous portal frames to carry the superstructure.
The upper tier and its roof are divided into 26 bays separated by 8m wide full-height 'gaps', which provide one of the most visually dramatic aspects of the structure. External concrete access stairs use these gaps, which are flanked by the columns, providing segregated exit routes around the stadium.
The upper tier structure is a mix of precast and in situ concrete. Each bay is composed of 10 precast curved panels, crescent-shaped in long section and inverted T-shaped in cross section, supported by the annular beams and cantilevered at each end. The panels are tied by perimeter beams top and bottom. Once in place, the panels of each bay were used as permanent formwork for the casting of a series of concrete lengthwise ribs. These in turn support precast concrete seating.
The undersides of the inverted T-shaped panels are the visible exterior of the stadium. Each was precast on site in three segments using curved formwork and lifted into position onto temporary supports. The upper segments vary in length, as do the widths of the panels. This allows the height of the upper tier to vary — with the tightest curvature and the lowest points at the goal ends.
The seating steps are 800mm wide, with a maximum riser of 600mm at the top row on the upper tier. The rake is such that everyone can see over the heads of those in front.
Each structural bay has an independent tension membrane roof supported by two tapering curved steel box-section cantilevered beams of constant width. High-strength threaded steel bars connect these to the outer ends of the concrete upper tier. U-section tubular steel trusses connect the pairs of beams at their tips. Each section of truss and pair of beams act as a portal frame to resist loads parallel to the front line of the roof. The wide U of the truss carries an access walkway and the stadium's floodlights. A large scoreboard hangs from the roof’s edge at each end of the stadium.
Spaced between each pair of cantilevers are three stainless steel tubular arched intermediate beams that provide support for the PTFE-coated glass fibre membrane stretched over them. Stainless steel ties at the fifth points of the intermediate beams brace the arches. The tension membrane is fixed to the cantilevers and clamped inside a bolted connection at the bottom edge of the roof. Uplift from high winds is resisted by a network of ‘lazy’ cables placed over the top of the membrane. The fabric has a minimum strength of 80kN per sq m and a 13% translucency.
The plan width of each roof varies from about 27m in the middle of the long sides to 14m at the ends. In section, each roof is a segment of a circle that starts at a 45 degree angle at the rear and finishes horizontal at the leading edge.
Infill structures cover the gaps between upper tier structural bays, over the stairs. Each consists of four circular arches spanning between adjacent bays, stabilised by diagonal ties. They too support sections of membrane.
Artificial lighting was provided to FIFA standards using 264 individual 3,500W metal halide floodlights, giving overall illumination of 1,500-1,800 lux.
The visual simplicity of the structure has at its heart the confident command of geometry, structure and construction techniques that typify the work of engineer Peter Rice (1935-92), partner at Ove Arup & Partners.
Stadio San Nicola opened on 3rd June 1990 with a match between AS Bari and AC Milan (the home team won 2-0). It hosted five of the 1990 World Cup matches and the 1991 European Cup final.
Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Genoa
Contractor: Consortium Bari '90
Roof steelwork: Petitpierre Sud, Bari
Fabric roof contractor: Koit Hi-Tex GmBH, Bernau
Fabric manufacture: Verseidag, Krefeld
Research: ECPK
"Renzo Piano Building Workshop: Complete works, Volume One” by Peter Buchanan, Phaidon, London, (1993) reprinted 2007
"San Nicola Stadium, Bari, Italy", Euro Inox, Brussels, 2005
"The San Nicola Stadium, Bari" by Peter Rice, Alistair Lenczner, Tristram Carfrae and Andrew Sedgwick, in Arup Journal, Vol.25, pp.3-8, Autumn 1990
"External Walls and Roof, Football Stadium" Working Details article, with Mark Whitby and Alistair Lenczer, in Architects Journal, pp.50-53, London, 6th June 1990
reference sources   AEI

Stadio San Nicola