Ice Palace to mirror Russian constructivism


Russia St. Petersburg new arena from Coop Himmelblau Image: Coop Himmelblau

Austrian design practice Coop Himmelb(l)au has won an international design competition for the rehabilitation of the Ice Palace, current home of the Russian Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) club SKA Saint Petersburg (Russia).

‘Coophimmelb(l)au’ stated that the facility was originally built for Saint Petersburg’s staging of the International Ice Hockey Federation’s (IIHF) 2000 World Championship, and is a 12,300-person venue. The IIHF’s showpiece event is currently scheduled to return to the Russian City in 2023, with a spruced-up Ice Palace having been part of the hosting plan.

The Ice Palace (also referred to as Ledovy Dvorets) is an arena in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was built for the 2000 IIHF World Championship and opened in the year 2000. The Ice Palace is primarily used for ice hockey and is the home arena for SKA St.

The hockey club SKA, often referred to as SKA Saint Petersburg and literally as the Sports Club of the Army, is a Russian professional ice hockey club based in Saint Petersburg (Russia). They are members of the Bobrov Division in the Kontinental Hockey League.

Moscow (Russia)-headquartered the Kontinental Hockey League is an international professional ice hockey league founded in 2008. It comprises member-clubs based in Belarus, China, Finland, Latvia, Kazakhstan, and Russia for a total of 23.

Vienna (Austria)-based Coop Himmelb(l)au’s winning design follows the tradition of Russian constructivism. At the time of constructivism, Russia produced unique milestones in architectural history through the work of the likes of Vladimir Tatlin and El Lissitzky.

Russian constructivism

‘Coophimmelb(l)au’ further stated that at the time of constructivism, Russia produced unique milestones in architectural history. Artists such as Vladimir Tatlin ((1885-1953), who was also an architect, and El Lissitzky (1890-1941) inspired architects worldwide and redefined the level of artistic aspiration in architecture.

The design of the new Ice Palace in Saint Petersburg will follow this tradition of this unique era of constructivism, where everything was possible, and translates its expressive, open design language into a contemporary context: The filigree framework of its construction, based on Tatlin’s ‘Monument to the Third International’, is transferred to the flowing, dynamic movement of a person skating around the stadium.

Structural ring

A structural ring will serve as an additional support for the roof structure. The ring geometry will be differentiated into four segments, which will work within the global structural system, and four segments that support only themselves, as well as allow for big entrance openings. The wall-like steel structures will support the roof in four different areas around the stadium building. They are shaped as straight surfaces, or reinforce the folded surface geometry with a second layer of structural elements. Members will be designed as rectangular hollow cross-sections optimized for buckling resistance. Cross-section dimensions are optimized, and vary in gradients to the amount of vertical load transfer. The steel structures of the ring also provide horizontal bracing in its surface direction. They furthermore rest on the plinth building base, which is mainly designed as a reinforced concrete structure.

Stadium building

The existing stadium design consists mainly out of elements in reinforced concrete. Columns and walls transfer the main vertical loads towards the ground. Concrete cores as well as wall elements will brace the building in the horizontal direction and transfer the main horizontal loads towards the ground.


The base plinth structure will be designed in reinforced concrete columns, walls and a beam construction with a lightweight concrete slab.

Roof Structure

A spatial steel truss system based on a bi-axial layout will comprise the lightweight roof structure. The structure of the roof will be developed hand-in-hand with the pre-existing stadium design. The beam layout respects and adapts to the pre-existing structural axis around the stadium bowl. It uses predefined support points. Truss directions will be aligned with the main cantilevering directions, which will create a more efficient force flow towards the most cantilevering parts of the roof. The spatial truss structure will be further subdivided into mega-trusses and secondary beams, which will allow for a shortened span distance for the roof-skin construction. The top and bottom girder will be designed as simple-shaped cross-sections, which will allow for simple standard details for all joints. Diagonal members will be designed as rectangular hollow cross-sections optimized for buckling resistance. The height of the spatial truss structure will be adjusted to the force flow – close to supports and at areas in the middle of bigger spans the structural height will be bigger – the edges of the structure will be kept slender.


The foundation of the building will be designed as a raft foundation with a minimum thickness of 1m with local thickening in areas below the columns. In areas of large concentration of high loads (such as the structural ring segments), the thickness of the raft foundation will increase. Bored Piles will transfer the loads from the foundation plate to the loadbearing ground.

Vibrant venue

Without changing the existing planning inside the arena, a second, transparent cladding will be created, which will serve as a supporting structure for the overlying, dynamically cantilevered roof. This filigree construction is only interrupted by arches at those points where the stairs to the ring-shaped plinth are placed. This creates a covered arcade that is protected from the weather elements and can also be used as merchandising shops and food stands. Balconies, which will be attached to the thermal shell within these arcades, will connect the functional areas inside the arena with the protected outside space and can also be used as lounges and restaurant terraces outside of event times. A transparent media screen made of LED dots inside the glass envelope will communicate the current events over a large area in the area around the arena.

The roof of the arena will be shaped like a flattened dome. This will be equipped with solar panels on the side facing the sun and will come equipped with an LED screen above the main entrance, which can be seen from afar.

These measures will transform the building into a vibrant heart at the center of the newly created park complex for the people of Saint Petersburg, usable around the clock.

Park beckons

The park, with its event and sports areas, will be designed for year-round use. It will be criss-crossed by two categories of path networks: The first category will be straight axes that will connect important points in the park and enable quick traversal of the facilities. The vectors of these access routes will be derived from a work by El Lissitzky and will be symbolic of power and energy. The second category will consist of paths that wind through the park and invite visitors to stroll. Various zones for sports and leisure activities will be embedded in these path networks.

The respective zones, with their different functional areas, will flow smoothly into one another and will still be spatially perceptible for the visitor. At the edge of the zones, spectator stands will be integrated into the landscape and will protect the respective sports fields from the wind.

Service pavilions for foodies will be arranged between the various facilities, as well as relaxation areas with shady tree plantings that will beckon guests to linger on. Staggered rows of trees will be arranged as wind protection towards the street.

Along the arena’s main entrance axis will sit two ticket boxes upon which sculptures will be mounted on the roof, the shape of which being derived from the figure skating figures of Nikolai Alexandrovich Panin-Kolomenkin – Russian figure skater and coach. The paving will be provided in two-tone concrete blocks, which will create a flowing pattern that emphasizes the unmistakably exciting nature of this public space.

A statement sent out by Coop Himmelb(l)au stated, “The design of the new SKA Ice Hockey Arena in Saint Petersburg follows the tradition of this unique era of constructivism, where everything was possible, and translates its expressive, open design language into a contemporary context.”

Plans for the Ice Palace was decided after the then Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov in December 2019 maintained that Russia remained committed to plans to develop the world’s largest ice hockey arena in Saint Petersburg amid ongoing questions over the City’s hosting rights to the 2023 World Championship.

In August 2018, billionaire businessman Gennady Timchenko first revealed plans to develop the arena for SKA Saint Petersburg, which he owns. Timchenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said the arena would come at a projected cost of at least R20bn (£189m/€217.9m/$259.1m).

The new arena is intended to be built by 2023 and will offer a capacity for 21,500 to 23,000 fans. The Ice Palace has been listed as one of the two venues for the 2023 World Championship, along with the new arena.

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