Buro Happold dots-i’s-crosses-t’s venue plans


Rob May at Coliseum Summit Europe 2024 Image: Coliseum GSVA

Rob May knows all about the structure of a building and he dots the i’s and crosses the t’s whenever it comes to dealing with the build of venues. With a Structural Engineering background, he says it is an “absolutely amazing experience to help devise strategies to build venues to perfection”.

Rob May is a Partner at the British professional services firm Buro Happold and is based in the United Kingdom. With a background in structural engineering, he has experience leading a variety of large- scale and complex building projects from concept to construction, including stadia, arenas, cultural and infrastructure buildings over 20 years.

Joining May is Jim Griffiths, Director, Acoustics & AV Group within Vanguardia and Buro Happold, who has ‘sound’ knowledge about the ‘Science of Sound’. He has over 45 years’ experience in all the technical aspects related to sound, acoustics, noise and vibration and has specialized in the sound management of concerts and festivals since the early ’80s.

In an exclusive exchange with ‘Coliseum’, Rob May, Partner, Buro Happold, UK, tells that at Buro Happold it is all about collaboration, curiosity and focus while taking up venue projects. Jim Griffiths, Director, Acoustics & AV Group within Vanguardia and Buro Happold, joins May in asserting that while designing acoustics they look into all the nitty-gritty starting from what effect the acoustics will have on the neighbors living adjacent to the venue to ensuring good acoustics for the artistes and the footballers alike.

Buro Happold

Bath (UK)-based Buro Happold Limited is a British professional services firm that provides engineering consultancy, design, planning, project management, and consulting services for buildings, infrastructure and the environment.

Vanguardia, A Buro Happold Company

Oxted (UK)-based Vanguardia Consulting is an independent consultancy providing specialist advice on sound, noise, acoustics, and audio visual design. Buro Happold strengthened its consultancy capabilities with the acquisition of one of the world’s leading acoustics and audio-visual consultancies, Vanguardia Limited, in 2021.

Rob May remarked that in an age of futuristic design and stadia bending over backwards to provide best-of-breed experiences to its fans “it is really important for us to remember as engineers what design is. Frankly, it is about the experience and what we can do in service of that”.

He added that collaborating with the team with a curious mind can always generate interesting ideas on what one can achieve.

May informed that Buro Happold as a practice and an industry have developed incredible expertise in lightweight structures like lightweight roofs over many years now. He also said that simple structure engineering is one of the things “that we can bring to the table and Buro Happold is an industry that is powered by people who are empowered by technology”.

Case Study


Education City Stadium

The 44,667-capacity Education City Stadium is a football stadium which is located in Al Rayyan, Qatar, and was built as a venue in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ held in Qatar. It opened on June 15th, 2020.

Buro Happold was engaged to deliver a range of key deliverables across the Education City Stadium project. As May summed up, “Together with BDP Pattern (a global architecture and engineering practice which lent the final design of the venue) we came up with ideas to reduce the cost of the stadium by a massive amount. We also helped in reducing the steel tonnage which is a massive impact not only on the cost but also the embodied carbon and switching to a lighter weight system that sits well with the façade in terms of a simple stick system took this down from 12,700 tonnes to 5,600 tonnes.”

The Acoustics Stage

Talking about acoustics, Jim Griffiths explained, “When we design acoustics quite often we consider the Structure Engineering side and how the acoustics of a venue should be so designed so that the impact on the neighbors is minimum. We do the bowl acoustics and the sound system that goes in there.”

Griffiths wrapped up by stating, “But what’s really important and something that I have learnt after working the last few years with stadia and arenas is the artiste and the players – how the acoustics conditions should be perfect for the artiste and the players alike. If they do not feel comfortable performing on the stage or the players on the pitch, it will result in a poor spectator experience. Getting the venue’s acoustics pitch perfect is what drives the artistes and after all they are the people who generate the entertainment.”

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