By Jake Kulju
The new Arena das Dunas replaces an older soccer stadium that was constructed in the city of Natal in 1972. In the more than four decades since it was built, the stadium and the neighborhood had fallen into disrepair. The demolition and reconstruction of the arena was the flagship project of a larger urban redevelopment project. The stadium was so new that its ceiling wasn’t quite finished for its official inauguration in January 2014.
“The Type II fabric ceiling panels were installed at the very end of the construction project,” Nascimento says. “I believe only three of the 20 panels were in place at the inauguration. The entire ceiling was ready by the time the World Cup began, however.”
The unique appearance of Arena das Dunas was inspired by the spectacular sand dunes of the Rio Grande Do Norte region, where Natal is located. A tensioned fabric shell made of Précontraint 1002 T2 material envelops the stadium, providing aesthetics, thermal insulation, acoustic balance and natural ventilation, all while making use of natural light to illuminate the stadium.
“While the fabric mainly had an aesthetic mission (to conceal the metallic structure of the roof), it is more than just a finishing material,” Nascimento says. “It also provided valuable acoustic insulation and structural stability. Tensioned fabric was part of the Arena das Dunas from the architectural phase, and has remained an integral part of the design and construction of the project from the beginning.”
Since none of the 20 panels was of the same size or had the same curvature, designers and engineers had their work cut out for them. In addition, the fabric modules provided structural strength and dimensional stability, capable of carrying eight tons of tension per meter.