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Subterranean Penang International Convention & Exhibition Centre (SPICE); Subterranean Penang International Convention & Exhibition Centre (SPICE);

Subterranean Penang International Convention & Exhibition Centre (SPICE), Penang

The largest column-free subterranean ballroom and the largest rooftop recreational park in Malaysia

Following the Penang Island Municipal Council’s decision to revitalise this almost 20-year old indoor stadium facility, it became clear that what was needed was a convention and exhibition centre that would be both highly aesthetic and functional providing a great green public open space at the same time.

The end product has turned out to be an iconic meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) facility for the state and Arup is proud to have delivered a big part of the engineering for it providing civil, structural and geotechnical engineering skills.

Project Summary


70,000ft2 underground convention centre with 40m column-free long spans

6acrerooftop recreational park

113mporte cochere with only four main support points

A convention centre with the largest rooftop recreational park A convention centre with the largest rooftop recreational park

An underground convention hall under a 6-acre roof garden

SPICE’s convention hall is tucked under a 6-acre roof garden. This is part of its uniqueness. The hall provides 4,500m2 of column-free ballroom space with an unobstructed view of the stage. 

Such an arrangement created the structural challenge of supporting the roof garden with long span steel trusses that had to withstand loading from soil, landscaping and crowds. The roof garden is the largest recreational rooftop park in the country. It provides the largest special needs children’s playground, bamboo park and the largest urban spice garden in Malaysia.

The 40m span 3-D supporting trusses were designed with bespoke fabricated joints instead of using proprietary joints that would have been much more expensive. Being subject to crowd loading, the trusses were also analysed and checked for dynamic behaviour to ensure user comfort and structural integrity.

70,000ft2 underground convention centre with 40m column-free long spans 70,000ft2 underground convention centre with 40m column-free long spans

A porte cochere that is a sight to behold

The iconic porte cochere is a sight to behold. The porch trusses span 113m supported on only four points.  They are three dimensionally curved and were originally allowed by the architect to have member sizes up to 1.2m deep. 

Arup worked closely with the design-build contractor to modify and find the form that kept the architect’s intent for a free form roof and at the same time allowed the member sizes to be reduced to just 400mm, maximum. The shallowness of the porch structural members has been instrumental in giving the porte cochere its refined appearance.