Wimbledon AELTC

London, United Kingdom
Centre Court is hallowed ground, where tennis legends are made and history has been written one rally at a time. But in 2009, this iconic venue penned a ground-breaking new chapter. Enter Populous, with the design of a retractable roof, a modern twist in a classic setting, which would ensure rain no longer held up the epic grass-court battles.

This technologically advanced new roof wasn’t just about keeping players and fans dry. It was a statement. Wimbledon was embracing the future. Populous led a team that came up with a high-tech system capable of closing in under 10 minutes, using a translucent fabric skin that allows natural light to reach the court. With air flow regulating temperature and humidity, conditions stay comfortable for players and spectators, keeping the drama firmly on the court and not in the skies. And when the roof is shut, it amplifies all the roars, groans, gasps and applause, ramping up the spectacle.

But more than the technology, it’s the finesse with which it has been integrated that truly makes it stand out. The court retains all of its elegance and tradition, even with the addition of extra rows of seating, lifts and improved players’ and members’ facilities. 

The mission statement which accompanied the last Wimbledon master plan, in 1993, suggested that the tournament should feel like “tennis in an English garden”. That principle was applied by architects Populous, who did a fine job in maintaining a sense of tradition while updating the facilities.

Simon Briggs

Tennis Correspondent, Daily Telegraph

Since its introduction, Centre Court has played host to some unforgettable twilight duels, including in 2012, when Roger Federer and Andy Murray contested the first Championship Final with the roof closed. Centre Court’s redevelopment stands as a masterclass in preserving legacy while embracing progress.


  • Architecture


    Populous upgraded the south-eastern, northern and eastern wings of the existing Centre Court and provided new accommodation comprising debentures, hospitality and dining facilities to take the Club into the 21st Century.

    The most dramatic feature of the redesign was the retractable roof. Its evolution was scientifically demanding: measuring 65 x 75 metres, the hydraulically operated structure is like a folding fabric concertina, with steel trusses supporting a translucent fabric skin. The roof now allows matches to be played under cover in the event of bad weather during the two weeks of the Championships.

    The combination of special and specific roof and bowl requirements needed a unique design solution. A key consideration was the internal environment during those times when the roof is closed: both the players and spectators need to be comfortable in the closed environment. To that end, the design allows natural light to reach the grass, while an airflow system removes condensation from within the bowl.

    With tickets increasingly in demand, an extra six rows of seating on three sides of the upper tier increased the capacity at Centre Court from 13,800 to 15,000. New wider seats have been installed as well as extra stairs and lifts to provide greater spectator comfort. To allow for the new seating, new media facilities and commentary boxes have been incorporated. A core requirement of the proposal was to maximise the flexibility of the Club to provide facilities of the highest quality, both for the two high profile weeks of the Championships and the remaining fifty weeks per year, enjoyed by the members of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

Facts & Figures

  • Roof weight

    3,000 t

  • Roof area

    6,000 m2

  • Volume of Centre Court with roof closed

    87,000 m3

  • Roof movement speed

    13 m per minute

  • Air-conditioning supplies

    143,000 L of air per second

  • 2009

    • European Structural Steel Design Awards
    • Stadium Business Awards, Innovation of the Year, 2009
2 items.
  • Dale Jennins Senior Principal London
  • Marc Spinner Principal, Architect Paris

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