Modelling the Wimbledon Roof

July 8, 2015


Last Thursday saw the first use of the roof on Centre Court at this year’s Wimbledon Championship. This unique structure, designed by Populous and completed in 2009, fulfils its initial brief – to be ‘there but not there’, ready to spring into action as soon as it is required, while allowing the Championship to remain as an outdoor tournament. Now an icon for The Championship, the roof even has its own (unofficial) twitter account!

Back in March, we were delighted to welcome Lucy Morice-Jones and her mum Sue to our London offices. Twelve-year-old Lucy is a keen tennis player, and had decided to build a scale replica of Wimbledon Centre Court as part of a school project. As is important in any ambitious project, Lucy had done her homework, and got in touch to discuss the roof with the original architects. Lucy spoke to Populous Senior Adviser Bill Augustyn, who was project lead in the design and construction of the Centre Court roof. Bill was able to add layers of detail to the information that Lucy had already collected. Here, Lucy tells us what inspired her to take on such a big challenge:

“I choose to build centre court considering it is the main court at Wimbledon and my interest in tennis as I play myself. I’ve always wanted to attempt to make it. I found making my model of centre court a huge challenge, especially as it didn’t all go to plan and I had to change and alter the design a few times before it would either look right or work in the way we wanted it to, eventually it all came together with a finished model larger than I can hold, including a working roof.


“The hardest part was getting the roof to open and close. We had trundle wheels and tracks that you could pull them along and the roof would close with no problem. The thing I found most interesting was getting the look of Centre Court with the windows and Balconies right and this was where the visit to the architects helped most.”


The Populous-designed retractable roof on Centre Court was completed in 2009. Measuring 65×75 metres, the hydraulically operated structure is a ‘folding fabric concertina’, meaning that matches can now be played despite the somewhat inclement weather that we sometimes experience during our British summers.

Bill said: “It was great to revisit the project, and explore some of the really interesting features of the project again, including the laser-guided ‘bogies’ that draw the roof together in perfect synchronisation.

“During the design process, a full-size mock-up of the roof was created on a vacant site near Sheffield, in order to test all eventualities. The roof aperture was increased after several technical reviews, to ensure that the opening provided adequate daylighting into the stadium to allow the grass to grow naturally, and the blades not to become too wide in their search for light. As any grass court tennis player will know, wide blades of grass become slippery, and too dangerous to play on. It was great to meet Lucy and her mum, and I must congratulate her on a great job!”

We think you’ll agree that this is a fantastic effort by Lucy and her mum. We fully expect to see Lucy in our office again in 15 or so years’ time!

Wimbledon Centre Court Fast Facts:

• Roof weight: 3,000 tonnes – equivalent to 8 jumbo jets
• Roof area: 6,000m2 – or 75,000 Wimbledon umbrellas
• Volume of Centre Court with roof closed: 87,000m3 – enough room to fit 290million tennis balls
• Roof movement speed: 13m per minute – if the roof continuously moved it would reach Buckingham Palace 24 hours later
• Air-conditioning supplies: 143,000 litres of air per second – enough to fill a hot air balloon in 18 seconds


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