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Famous Verona Arena will soon be closeable during rain with a roof made of textile membrane.
© GMP/A-Promise
Famous Verona Arena will soon be closeable during rain with a roof made of textile membrane.

A new roof for old walls

Its superb acoustics make the Roman amphitheater in Verona an ideal venue for operas and concerts. Were it not for the rain. Schlaich Bergermann Partner together with GMP Architekten have now devised an extremely smart and mobile roof structure to keep out bad weather.
by Fabian Peters | 7/1/2017

The most enjoyable of gladiatorial torments can become torturous if its throwing it down or the sun is searing. The Ancient Roman architects knew this full well when they designed the huge arenas throughout the Empire. And they therefore spanned huge awnings, called “velaria”, over the stands.
Almost 2000 years later, the amphitheater in Verona is still a first-class piece of events architecture, although it is now opera singers not gladiators who strut around the stage. Yet, the “too hot”, “too cold” or “too wet” phenomenon still impairs spectators’ enjoyment. A temporary roof has thus been planned to cover the entire arena. And will of course not intervene in the fabric of the original structure nor visually impair the magnificent building. The competition to find a solution to this tall task was won by a spectacular joint project by the architects and engineers at Schlaich Bergermann Partner (SBP) and Gerkan, Marg und Partner (GMP). They propose placing a ring on the crest of the amphitheater that then houses the roof when it is furled. The special feature: absolutely no carrier cables will need to be permanently spanned over the oval of the arena. Only when the roof needs to be closed do the cables unroll from the ring into position and with them a roof membrane is then fully automatically pulled into place. When the roof is not in use, the membrane and cables roll back into the ring. The latter is positioned such that you can hardly see it from the outside and the face of the ancient building remains unchanged, just the way things were with the ancient velaria.

Animation of the retractable roof for the Verona Arena
In closed state a roofing membrane above the arena is hold by a fan-shaped cable network
© SBP/GMP
In closed state a roofing membrane above the arena is hold by a fan-shaped cable network
The opening process works in two steps. First step: the membrane is retract in the compression ring.
© SBP/GMP
The opening process works in two steps. First step: the membrane is retract in the compression ring.
Step two: The cables are moved inside the ring.
© SBP/GMP
Step two: The cables are moved inside the ring.
When the roof is open membrane and cables are completely hidden inside the compression ring.
© SBP/GMP
When the roof is open membrane and cables are completely hidden inside the compression ring.
The ring that takes in the roof creates also space for lighting and stage technology.
© GMP/A-Promise
The ring that takes in the roof creates also space for lighting and stage technology.
The bird's view reveals the importance of the arena for the historic cityscape of Verona.
© GMP/A-Promise
The bird's view reveals the importance of the arena for the historic cityscape of Verona.