When the global showcase for the world’s most popular sport takes place in your country, it’s important to give it the proper stage. The people of Natal, Brazil, knew this well as they were planning to host the FIFA World Cup in 2014. The city’s existing stadium—the “'Machadão”—was constructed in 1972, and had since fallen into disrepair, along with the neighborhood. Planners saw construction of the new World Cup stadium as an opportunity for a larger urban redevelopment project. They hoped to create a space that could serve the community, hosting music and cultural events as well as local soccer clubs, long after the World Cup was over.
To help them reach these goals, planners hired Populous, a global architectural firm that specializes in creating large gathering places, including stadia, arenas, ballparks, convention centers, fairgrounds, and more. Populous conceived a design inspired by the sand dunes surrounding the coastal city of Natal—Arena das Dunas, a vibrant new stadium that would serve as a grand space for gatherings.
The stadium was completed in January 2014, and its hallmark is its outer shell—made up of 20 huge aluminum canopies that curl around the arena and mimic the nearby sand dunes. Each of the 20 panels is uniquely sized and curved, making the material selection and building process especially important.
The canopies are made with a steel truss structure that is clad with aluminum tiles and 6,000 square meters of polycarbonate sheets. In addition to suiting the architects’ needs for curvature and adaptability, the lightweight polycarbonate sheets required less structural support than alternative products, which enabled the use of lower-cost aluminum to support the roof.
These polycarbonate sheets—Makrolonmulti UV 3/16-16 triple-wall sheets from Bayer MaterialScience—are coated with Valspar’s Epoxy Primer to provide excellent adhesion, durability and water resistance. Additionally, Valspar’s Kromapol in Alaska White was applied with a Matte Clearcoat finish offering extended UV protection, giving the arena the longevity to stand up to the Brazilian sun.
The completed structure also helps visitors beat the sun, with a design that shields the stands from direct sunlight, while still allowing them to catch cooling sea breezes. Louvers built into the stadium between the shells help with additional airflow. These infills between the canopies also allow daylight into the stadium, and at nighttime create a dramatic appearance—perfect for the overhead blimp shots favored by sports broadcasts.
Eco-friendly features are built into the arena as well. Gutters on the roof collect rainwater and divert it to tanks stationed below the lower stands, where it is stored for re-use in lavatories and to irrigate the field. The system is capable of capturing up to 3,000 cubic meters of water in this way, enabling dramatic utility savings.
The new Arena das Dunas gives the city of Natal just what it needed. Not only did it provide a beautiful showpiece for the World Cup, it is now a multi-functional facility that can host many types of events long into the future. At the stadium’s inauguration, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff summed up the country’s sentiments, stating, “I was delighted by the beauty of this stadium, especially given the fact that it was delivered 3 percent below budget, and that it will earn the seal of Ecology. This stadium is as beautiful as Natal.”
Arena Das Dunas, https://arenadunas.com.br/#!arena