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Wembley Stadium
Wembley, London
associated engineer
Mott MacDonald
Connell Wagner
Sinclair Knight Merz
date  1996 - 2007
era  Modern  |  category  Stadium/Arena/Pool  |  reference  TQ192857
Design considerations for the new Wembley Stadium produced a striking combination of the old and idiosyncratic (maintaining the east-west orientation of the original), the superlative (the world’s largest single-roof structure) and the stunning — the graceful, soaring tubular steel arch.
The most desirable, and at the same time the most complex design component of a large stadium is a negative — the absence of supporting columns. By developing a tubular-steel arch spanning 315m which supports 70% of the roof load, lead engineers Mike Barker and David Hooper assured clear sightlines for every seat while integrating a retractable roof.
The arch, leaning backward at 112 degrees, attaches to the roof by means of forestay cables tied into the catenary cable that holds up the northern end. Balancing these are the backstay cables, linked to the perimeter prismatic truss, the ring beam running about the top of the stadium. This array of cables, the thickest of which is 110mm in diameter, keeps the towering arch in constant tension, no mean feat considering its 1,800 tonne horizontal thrust.
In addition, by using cables and tubing rather than massive structures built of steel beams, the engineers achieved the necessary strength without subjecting the structure to wind loads which would, in turn mandate even an even more massive, less elegant structure. At night, the glowing arch is visible from miles away due to the 258 metal halide floodlights installed within the lattice.
The 133m high arch, a lattice of 41 rings connecting spiralling tubes with walls up to 60mm thick, ultimately sits on two massive concrete pads resting on piles 35m deep. The larger, western base comprises 60 piles supporting a 6,000 cubic metre slab of concrete, 2.7m thick. This was accomplished in what is believed to be the largest single concrete pour in Europe.
The sliding section of the roof is supported on four north-south oriented, semi-vierendeel trusses. The cables used for the bottom chord of these trusses minimize their visual impact. When weather permits the sliding section of the roof, covering the entire south side of the stadium, to be fully opened, the whole pitch is in sunlight. Allowing maximum light and ventilation not only allows Wembley to maintain a top-quality grass pitch and thereby achieve UEFA five-star status, but makes for significantly better television images from the stadium.
Surrounding the slab, a retaining wall constructed of full-height reinforced concrete panels is linked to massive concrete blocks using Dywidag ties. This barrier retains the 320,000 cubic metres of clay fill that was excavated from the area below the stadium. The 10m high wall serves to support the portion of the lower tier that is above ground level.
The new Wembley stadium has managed to express its respect for its predecessor and the traditions attached to it, provide a world-class venue for the sport it celebrates, create a stunning landmark and show that beauty and elegant, imaginative engineering can go hand in hand.
Architect: Foster & Partners and HOK Sport
Project engineers: Mike Barker, David Hooper
Main contractor: Multiplex Foundations
Subcontractor: McGinley Construction
Concrete contractor: PC Harrington
Steelwork (arch and roof phase 1): Cleveland Bridge
Steelwork (roof phase 2): Hollandia
Arch erection: Dorman Long Technology
Author: William Mehlman
"Engineer's Guide to the FA Cup" by Andrew Mylius
New Civil Engineer, 17th May 2007
Mott MacDonald ... www.mottmac.com

Wembley Stadium