Light in every sense: Polish stadia for Euro 2012

"Creating history together": The theme of this year's European Football Championship in Poland and Ukraine is also reflected in the architecture of many Euro 2012 stadia. The arenas appear light and easy - while offering maximum comfort.

Especially Poland successfully made use of the opportunities that plastics offer for design: Amber plastic for the PGE Arena Gdansk and different plastic-coated membranes for the stadia in Warsaw, Wroclaw and Poznan made the stadia to the new symbols of their country. During a tour of the new National Stadium in Warsaw, architects and engineers presented the breathtaking possibilities of modern plastic materials that allow for optimal construction requirements for multi-purpose arenas.

"It started with the tent roof construction made of Plexiglas for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, when Germany presented itself as a cosmopolitan host. The then state-of-the-art concept by Frei Otto is still considered as a transparent roof wonder, serving as role model for the construction of today's football stadia”, said Roland Burgard, Professor of Architecture and former Head of the High Building Authority Frankfurt. Modern stadium roofs only faintly recall the Munich model; growing experience with the plastic material culminates in increasingly complex roof structures with multifunctional capabilities. For the roof covering of the newly completed National Stadium in Warsaw, the engineers from Schlaich Bergermann and Partner further developed the "principle of the spoke wheel” (Speichenradprinzip).

Transparent plastic membranes stretch over the stands, which allow the turf sufficient light for a natural growth and offer best visibility for fans even in an unfavorable position of the sun. The field is covered by a roof membrane which is retractable in good weather conditions. "In a construction of this type we have to build as light as possible", said Knut Goeppert, Executive Engineer at Schlaich Bergermann and Partner, Germany. "At the same time, this material needs to withstand violent wind and heavy snow loads. Plastic combines these features and allows to bridge long spans with low material cost, while at the same time being very elegant."

A look at the Warsaw stadium from outside shows how plastics support the creativity of architects and engineers in customizing a highly standardized building project. From the distance, the 55,000-seat football stadium seems like a oversized red-white patterned crown – and the translucent plastic roof is reminiscent of the waves of the Baltic Sea.

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