London’s ABBA Arena – an engineering feat


ABBA arena largest temporary venue Image: Stufish

The STUFISH Entertainment Architects have designed the ABBA Arena – a brand new performance space in East London (UK). The 3,000-capacity arena will serve as the home for ABBA’s virtual concert ‘ABBA VOYAGE’, which opened on May 26th, 2022. The building is set to become a new cultural destination in the City, situated close to the Pudding Mill Lane DLR station in Stratford, London.

The ‘STUFISH Entertainment Architects’ stated that the steel and timber building has been conceived as a mysterious, intriguing object that demands attention, whilst creating a welcoming atmosphere for visitors to enjoy their experience. Designed from the inside out, the 25.5m high hexagonal form of the arena is in response to the requirements of the show, the staging and the desired seating geometry. The largest of its kind, the structure has been designed as a demountable temporary venue, which is able to be relocated to another site at the end of its five-year tenure in East London.

The ABBA is a Swedish pop group formed in Stockholm (capital of Sweden) in 1972 by Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngstad. The group’s name is an acronym of the first letters of their first names arranged as a palindrome.

STUFISH is a team of entertainment architects creating ambitious and pioneering work, exploring new ways to inspire audiences and visitors, from musical experiences to theatrical shows, exhibitions, and buildings.

Remarked Ray Winkler, CEO of STUFISH Entertainment Architects, “The ABBA Arena, a portable venue, will set the standard for future shows where the physical and the digital fuse to create a new genre of experience in the physical world.”

The ‘STUFISH Entertainment Architects’ further stated that at the heart of the arena, the auditorium houses high-tech capabilities and offers a unique immersive entertainment experience, designed to fit 1,650 seats and space for a standing audience of 1,350. The structure of the temporary venue that sits on concrete pads is designed to create an internal clear span of 70m to allow for a large immersive production. Built by ES Global, it has been optimized to be as light as possible to minimize the load on foundations. The design of the roof is a direct response to the large structural span of the auditorium and a desire to compliment the venue’s mysterious appearance.

An engineering feat, the arena is unified beneath a semi-axisymmetric steel dome weighing in at 744 tonnes, which during construction was built on the ground and then lifted 25.5m into the air by 18 strand jacks to its final position. The roof and wall cladding have been designed to meet the acoustic performance of the venue and to limit the effects of noise on surrounding residential areas. To contrast with the spectacle of the high tech show inside, the external structure that braces the steel dome roof and auditorium is clad with a porous screen of sustainable timber battens. The large ABBA logo is integrated onto two façades with LED light strips following the timber.

Outside the auditorium an extended concourse area is used to serve visitors as they arrive, sheltered from the elements by a large timber canopy built by Stage One. Like the superstructure itself, the canopy is a modular system that can be removed in sections and can be reconfigured to meet the needs of a new site once it has relocated. Timber modules follow the hexagonal shape of the venue to accommodate food and beverage options, retail, toilets, and a guest lounge.

Asserted Alicia Tkacz, Partner at STUFISH Entertainment Architects, “This unique project provided the perfect blend of architecture and entertainment, allowing us to create an amazing immersive experience for the audience, that has never been seen before.”

After undergoing rapid change under the LLDC Legacy Communities Scheme, Pudding Mill Lane was identified as the suitable location for the revolutionary new venue due to its closeness to the nearby cultural hubs, the 60,000-capacity Olympic Park and the neighboring Hackney and Stratford. Prior to construction the site was vacant and occasionally used for temporary event parking. As part of its sustainable environmental agenda, its proximity to public transport links made Pudding Mill a desirable choice and once opened, Crossrail will allow even more options for visitors to reach the venue by public transport. The transport assessment indicates that 83 percent of visitors will travel to the arena using public transport.

As well as the architects for the venue that will house ABBA’s long-awaited concert, the STUFISH Entertainment Architects have also been commissioned as the stage designer for the virtual ABBA VOYAGE show. With over 30 years’ experience conceiving stage designs for the likes of American singer-songwriters Beyoncé, Madonna, Lady Gaga, and the English rock band The Rolling Stones, STUFISH have brought their magic once again to help bring ABBA’s show to life, under the direction of producers Svana Gisla and Ludvig Andersson and Director Baillie Walsh.

Founded by the Late Mark Fisher, the STUFISH Entertainment Architects have become world leaders in permanent and semi-permanent architecture. STUFISH designs unique and innovative entertainment architecture to create inspirational memories for a global audience, from live musical experiences to theatrical shows, exhibitions, and bespoke buildings. Along with their new ABBA Arena in East London, STUFISH have designed theaters across the globe including the Chimelong Theatre in Zhuhai, China, Han Show Theatre in Wuhan, China, and the Dai Show Theatre in Xishuangbanna, China.

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