Populous Continues to Set the Bar in Retractable Roof Design

January 22, 2014

Populous continues to be a world leader in the design of retractable roof stadiums with the completion of the innovative roof over Margaret Court Arena, at Melbourne Park, home of the Australian Open (currently underway 13-26 January 2014). Globally, Populous has now been involved in the design of eleven retractable roof venues.

The redevelopment of Margaret Court Arena (MCA) also adds to the expertise Populous has developed with Grand Slam tennis venues which includes the roof at Wimbledon’s Centre Court.

MCA is undergoing a three year transformation to enclose the existing court with internal concourse and operable roof. Joint Venture architects, NH Architecture and Populous, lead the design team working to complete the $160M redevelopment for the Victorian Government.


There is still a year of work to go on this stage of redevelopment, but the distinctive new roof is now in place and remains fixed in its open position during this year’s Australian Open providing welcome shade particularly during that first week when a heat wave hit Melbourne. Construction will resume in February with final completion due by November 2014.

As with all retractable roofs, the redevelopment will enable MCA to evolve from a single use tennis venue to a true multifunctional facility. The primary use of the arena will continue as host to major matches of the Grand Slam tournament, but it will also host netball, basketball, concerts and entertainment events throughout the rest of the year.

This flexibility is a critical attribute of retractable roof stadiums and arenas – something that has been of great benefit across the globe in our other most recently opened retractable roof facility – Marlins Park, in Florida, US. The 7.76 acre roof at the ballpark in Miami has ensured that regardless of the elements, game day can continue. It has also provided the team the ability to utilize the ballpark on non-game days for a wide variety of public and private event.

At Margaret Court Arena, the facility will introduce new levels of spectator comfort, entertainment and reliability while at the same time offering an insight into the capabilities of modern day engineering. When complete, the roof will be able to close completely in less than five minutes which is twenty minutes faster than the adjacent Rod Laver Arena roof, constructed more than twenty-five years ago. Importantly, this will have significant operational advantages, including reduced interruption to players if inclement weather is experienced during match play.

The venue’s distinctive roof profile reduces the structural depth of the roof contributing to a reduction in the visual bulk of the building. The pleated nature of the roof design also provides the flexibility to fold down the roof to pedestrian level to provide weather protection, particularly at venue entrances. The two moving roof panels over the arena floor, also with pleated roof profiles, slide over the fixed roof creating a slim line design, not unlike sliding two folded sheets of paper over one another.

Large cantilevered roof overhangs on all sides of the building provide shade to the surrounding concourse and public realm, offering respite for patrons facing the hot summer sun.

The “copper penny” colour of the metal roof has been deliberately chosen to complement the existing architecture, particularly big brother next door, Rod Laver Arena, but also to express Margaret Court Arena’s own individuality.

When the Margaret Court Arena officially opens late this year, it will achieve a significant step in the realization of the Melbourne and Olympic Parks precinct Masterplan as well as introducing the precinct’s third all-weather arena, – that’s more roofed venues than any other Grand Slam precinct.

Populous’ involvement in retractable roof arena design includes:

  • Astana Arena, Astana, Kazakhstan
  • Etihad Stadium, Melbourne, Australia
  • Friends Arena, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, Australia
  • Marlins Park, Miami, US
  • Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, UK
  • Minute Maid Park, Houston, US
  • Reliant Stadium, Houston, US
  • University of Phoenix, Glendale, US
  • Wimbledon Centre Court, London, UK
  • Wembley Stadium, London, UK

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