Melbourne Rectangular Stadium - referred to as AAMI Park due to sponsorship - is an award-winning structure in the heart of the Melbourne Central Business District. The stadium’s main occupants include a variety of Australian rugby teams, serving as a venue for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

The 31,000-seat rectangular stadium is the result of collaboration between Arup and Cox Architecture, featuring an innovative bio-frame roof creating a highly efficient, functional and visually exciting structure.

Arup provided structural and civil engineering, turf and pitch consultancy, facade and pedestrian modelling. The focus was on setting benchmarks in efficiency and sustainability, and integrating sustainable features with the overall stadium design.
Designed by the application of shell theory and 3D modelling tools, the roof is made up of 20 interdependent shells and a single layer of structure that shares the load through a combination of arching, cantilever and shell action. The resulting structure is considerably lighter and uses around 50% less steel than traditional structural solutions.

Next generation design

AAMI Park's roof maximises natural light and ventilation for both spectators and the health of the playing surface. The bio-frame provides 80% coverage for spectators, insulation and integration with a drainage system that collects rainwater. The unique triangulated single-layer roof represents the next generation of structurally efficient design. It allows forces to flow in three directions and was inspired by principles of shell theory and the famous geodesic domes of Buckminster Fuller.

High quality playing surface

With more than 50 sporting and entertainment events expected to be held at AAMI Park each year, the stadium features a playing surface designed to withstand high intensity use with minimal recovery time between events. 

The natural turf surface covers an area of 130m by 76m, surrounded by a 3m-wide perimeter of synthetic grass. The flat playing surface is based on USGA putting green construction, with a 300mm rootzone sand layer laid over a variable depth drainage gravel blanket. The flat playing surface optimises drainage and minimises water use. Drainage occurs via infiltration through the profile and is collected in the underlying subsurface agricultural drainage network.

Arup’s engineers undertook specialist sun and shade modelling to ensure the surface would receive the required levels of sunlight and airflow. The shape of the roof and orientation of the stadium assists with ventilation of the playing surface and keeps the turf in good health.

Building Information modelling (BIM)

The roof is a symmetrical four quarters, each with 630 panels. A full 3D generative component model was assembled for analysis. This modelling technique enabled the whole design geometry to be altered in real time, making the optimisation of the geometry timely and efficient. 

Bentley software was used to produce the final construction model. Arup’s innovative use of the software was recognised with a 2008 Bentley Award of Excellence. 
Arup planners used sophisticated pedestrian simulation tools to model the behaviour of spectators before and after an event. The number of spectators, entry points, behaviour and other factors (such as location of transport links) create a complex environment which requires meticulous planning.

Parametric design

Arup’s use of 3D modelling and computer technology significantly streamlined the design process. This included using Generative Component (GC) software to prepare parametric models to define the roof structure, allow for testing of alternative geometric configurations, creating wireframe models, and presetting the final geometry for fabrication and construction. 

The structural design team also used in-house optimisation software to study the structural efficiency of the roof. By optimising the member sizes, the most efficient structure was determined, resulting in considerable savings in the amount of steel required for construction. The shell and other concrete works were fully realised in 3D from concept to construction.

Advanced pedestrian modelling ensured optimal external circulation for patrons, improving safety and avoiding bottlenecks around the concourse and in surrounding streets.