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Offering sculptural presence, efficiency and a sense of theatre, AAMI Park presents an engaging breed of sporting venue


While television manufacturers of the world try to keep us indoors come match day with an array of widescreen, high-definition, and 3D offerings, a new breed of sports stadium seeks to turn the tables. Fresh thinking and sound design principles can transform attending a live sporting event into an exhilarating and memorable experience.

The new AAMI Park stadium presents a futuristic sight on the skyline. Designed by Cox Architects with Jonathan Gardiner in the role of project director, the stadium forms part of the Melbourne sports and entertainment precinct, with illustrious neighbours that include the Rod Laver Arena, the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the Myer Music Bowl.

"The AAMI Park works well with these other venues, playing off them visually and also providing a mid-range capacity for 30,000 patrons, between the MCG's maximum of 100,000 and the Rod Laver Arena's 15,000 seats."

However, while the venue is in register with the city's other major sporting destinations, in its dynamic design, structure and operation it stands apart.

"A driving force for the entire design is the stadium roof, comprised of a series of cantilevered geodesic domes that are in turn built from rigid triangle forms," says Gardiner. "The overarching principle is that the bio-frame forms part of the structure."


The individual triangle elements form strong building units and in turn spread stress loads across the entire structure which is itself a large self-supporting arch. This obviated the need for internal supporting columns, which would have obstructed spectator sightlines.

In aesthetic terms, this gave Cox Architects a versatile design language to work with. The stadium is shaped so that the long sides have far greater seating capacity than the less favoured points of view behind the goals. Dips in the form at the northern end maximise sunlight penetration onto the real grass pitch. Each point of the triangular lattices is fitted with LED lighting, allowing for dramatic lighting effects across the shell.

In engineering terms, this means the stadium required only a tenth of the steel per seat compared with the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing, and a third of what was needed for the Allianz Arena in Munich. This represents a more eco-friendly use of material resources and also allowed Cox Architects to create a design that optimises service access and player facilities, and most of all, creates an exhilarating experience for spectators.

"The lightweight roof meant we could completely rethink the way the stadium works – all with the aim to turn watching sport into an interactive experience," says Gardiner. "We set the stadium's operations over two levels. The lower tier combines training facilities such as a gymnasium and swimming pool, hospitality outlet services, club headquarters – the Melbourne Victory, Melbourne Football Club, and Melbourne Storm are based here – and other workings, including an integrated waste management and recycling system. The AAMI Park also stands light on the ground in ecological terms – offering every green advantage from eco-friendly concrete slabs to rain-water collection on the variegated, structurally efficient roof."

But the really spectacular advance of the new venue is the sense of anticipation, arrival and immersion for eventgoers on the upper level.

"With services and team facilities tucked out of sight, the upper decks were clear to create approaches to the stadium and then circulation within the arena, to build a sense of anticipation as supporters near the pitch and reach their seats," says Gardiner.

Clear lines of sight show the stadium in all its glory long before patrons reach it, with related retail, food and beverage outlets lining the way. Next there is the immediate approach, where the stadium looms above, calling to mind the Colosseum in Rome. Large flights of steps are places to linger on and mingle before entering. Once inside, supporters can enjoy high views through triangular windows.

"Right up under the apex of the domes there is a capacious restaurant and viewing galleries," says Gardiner. "However, the stadium is also about interaction and spectators enter the ground on axis with the pitch before reaching their seats."

Despite the scale of the venue, the roof's individual scallops give a sense of identity to each area. The easy pedestrian flow means patrons so inclined can wander out the back to enjoy a reflective beer while their team flounders without disturbing other supporters.

The new AAMI Park puts the verve back into the theatre of live sport. Cheering your team to victory is that much more exciting when you feel you are part of the action – all in 3D real life.

First published date: 07 September 2010

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Credit List

Location AAMI Park (Melbourne, VIC) Architects Cox Architecture; project director, Jonathan Gardiner
Interior designer Cox Architecture
Construction company Grocon
Civil and structural engineer Arup
Services engineer Norman Disney & Young
Quantity surveyor WT Partnership
Acoustic engineer Marshall Day
Catering consultant McCartney Taylor Dimitroff Disability Discrimination
Act (DDA) consultant Access & Architecture
Traffic engineer GTA Consultants
Geo-technical Douglas Partners
OH&S David Caple & Associates
Builder surveyor Gardner Group
Metal roof cladding (bio-frame) Insulated metal panel, ThyssenKrupp, installed by Minesco
Roof steel shop drawings PlanIT Cocciardi JV
Glazed roofing Custom Glass & Specialised Fittings; SGA Glazing
Hollow-core concrete floor systems Hollow Core
Precast concrete Westkon Precast Concrete
Bowl seating Camatic
Blockwork walls Cambria Constructions
Artificial turf TigerTurf Australia
Steel fabrication Aus Iron Industries; Elliott Engineering; GVP Fabricators; Haywards; AE Engineering; Orrcon Operations – structural circular hollow-section pipework
Award Bentley Award for excellence in parametic modelling for structures