Celebrating 30 years in 2018, Rod Laver Arena is one of the top three entertainment venues in the world by ticket sales, and sixth by attendance levels, averaging more than 200 event days annually.
Project Name: Rod Laver Arena Redevelopment
Studio Name: Tahlia Svingos
Project size: 55000 m2
Project Budget: $338000000
Completion date: 2019
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Photography: Peter Clarke
Fulfilling the Victorian Government’s vision for Melbourne as a premier sporting and entertainment city, the core philosophy of the redevelopment was to thoughtfully upgrade the facility in a way that upholds its legacy while leveraging inherent assets.
The redevelopment applied four key design principles. The first embeds the arena within the precinct, opening connections to the wider ground-plane and surrounding parkland and open spaces. The second elevates the back-of-house areas in a way that maintains and improves capacity in an ever-evolving major event landscape. The third introduces the idea of new town squares, adding to public engagement and establishing the arena as a true place for the people. The final principle ensures a contextual echoing of the original design, with curves begetting curves, ensuring new built elements enhance and uplift existing structures.
The project can be understood in two elements, the first an upgrade to existing arena facilities – the ‘apparatus’ of the place, the second encompassing public realm and new built additions. The design addresses pragmatic requirements and delivers innovative, modern infrastructure while maintaining sensitivity to the precinct masterplan.
The seating bowl at the arena’s heart has been improved and enhanced, its capacity maximised and accessibility increased, which also allows greater stage width and flexibility. Increasing the roof rigging load to 100 tonnes by utilising a new permanent truss vastly reduces time, cost and visual impact on sightlines.
Extensive back-of-house modifications extended the loading dock to accommodate up to 21 semi-trailers simultaneously, ensuring the arena’s ability to attract the world’s biggest touring acts to Australia.
Designed to float above the pedestrian concourse, the new Eastern Annex delivers a dramatic new identity. A sculpted, human-scaled pod links a new public entry and retail frontages to the perimeter of the existing building. Above, the curved form constructed from steel frame, concrete and glass façade cladding contains new player/patron dining and lounge facilities. Touching the existing structure lightly, its sculpted form is connected by bridges to the arena via a light-filled atrium space, allowing vertical circulation and natural light.
To create a continuous and appropriate architectural language across all built additions and achieve harmony with the original architecture, the idea of contemporary pod additions that ‘plug’ into the existing structure were incorporated. The design of the pod and pavilion façades is distinctive, incorporating elements representing themes of context, climate and configurability. With a high-performance stretched, clear double-glazed skin, the buildings are conceived as extruded prisms enveloped by a tautly stretched surface.
The overall design solution across the venue responds to and complements the surrounding parkland, and urban structures, integrating into its context and strengthening the precinct through enhanced infrastructure, technology, sustainability, variety and amenity, providing a venue that is exciting, visually appealing and inviting.