The odd competition to roof the Verona Arena
By FEDERICA LUSIARDI - January 31, 2017
An international design competition was launched in March, 2016 “for the purpose of acquiring a proposal for roofing the Roman Amphitheater Verona Arena“.
UPDATE: winning design of the competition announced! See the proposal at the bottom of the page (Cover image: the winning proposal by Schlaich Bergermann Partner)
After reading the competition brief, I share here my first thoughts.
The complexity of the project and the format of an ideas competition seemed to do not fit well into one another.
The brief required to cover the 14,000-square-meter (150,000-square-foot) Roman Arena with a roofing structure that must be fully reversible, visually coherent with the amphitheater and its historical surroundings, cost-effective, structurally feasible, functionally and acoustically compatible with the live events and concerts which the Arena regularly accommodates, and at the same time it should include an artificial lighting system, being openable if necessary, and (obviously) have no negative impacts on the original structures.
Those who have seen the Arena probably can hardly imagine a solution different from the transparent flying saucer the organizer put on the brief cover. Seriously, is it really possible to cope with a so thought job through designs developed at preliminary level such those required for an ideas competition?
Furthermore the brief is quite superficial, for example it did not specify both size and number of the boards required, while it includes less relevant details such as those about the project technical description which should comprise “maximum of 50 standard pages in A4-format (front and back) character Arial, font size 11, line, spacing 1.5, alignment justified, margins 2 cm. The use of character formatting is allowed (italics, upper-case letters, boldface, etc.)”.
Again, official languages of the contest are English and Italian; yet, “the administrative documentation (…) presented in English must be accompanied by a sworn translation in Italian (…) The lack of a translation entails disqualification from the contest.”, this is the first time I see a so unorthodox requirement in an ideas competition, definitely.
Finally, the composition of the jury was quite vague, so to speak:
“The members are identified by the Authority as follows, also having heard
the Sponsor company” (?)
• two managers of the Municipality of Verona one of which having the
functions of the chairman
• a representative of the Order of Professional Architects, Curators,
Planners and Landscape Architects
• a representative of the Order of the Professional Engineers
• an expert in matters of structural engineering
• an expert in matters of archeology
• an expert in matters of architecture
A puzzling question promptly have arisen in my mind after reading the text above; which this “Sponsor company”, so powerful to have voice in the approval of jury members for a public sector competition, actually is, since there are no further details on it?
PS: it emerged afterwards that the sponsor company is the Verona-based socks and leggings manufacturer Calzedonia
The Verona Arena, ground floor plan
The winning design
On January 30, 2017, the Municipality of Verona announced the project by German architects Schlaich Bergermann Partner as the winner of the competition for roofing the Arena. The €13,5 million proposal, which features a retractable fabric roof, was selected among 84 entries from Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Argentina, Japan, and the United States.
Images of the winning design by Schlaich Bergermann Partner