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Construction of the La Plata Twinstar Dome

Andrzej BRZOZOWSKI Senior Associate Weidlinger Associates New York, NY, USA
brzozowski@wai.com

Gregory FREEMAN Associate Weidlinger Assoc. N.Y., NY, USA


freeman@wai.com

Tian-Fang JING Principal Weidlinger Assoc. N.Y., NY, USA


jing@wai.com

Matthys LEVY Chairman-Emeritus Weidlinger Associates New York, NY, USA levy@wai.com

Summary
A new 53,000-seat soccer stadium constructed in La Plata, Argentina features a unique twin-peaked Tenstar Dome. The plan of the dome has been uniquely shaped by the architect, Roberto Ferreira, to provide an individual identity to each of the two soccer clubs scheduled to share the use of the facility. The resulting image is that of a MasterCard symbol. In order to adapt to the non-monotonic hoops, an arch has been introduced across the pinched waist centerline of the stadium to resist the outward thrust. This arch required the introduction of rigid ribs instead of all cables used in earlier Tenstar Domes where the pinched waist kink was not present. Another distinguishing characteristic of this roof structure is the method of support. A triangulated perimeter space truss resting directly on the top of the seating berm provides resistance against both horizontal forces and gravity loads. Since this truss is about 13m high, VIP visitors skyboxes and control booths have been introduced that are hung from its top chord. Finally, the erection of this dome presented unique problems which are described in this paper.

Keywords: Cable structure; Fabric structure; Tensegrity; Erection; Construction; Prestress

1. Introduction
The 53,000 seat football stadium in La Plata, Argentina was first opened in 2003 without its unique Twin-peaked Tenstar Dome or Twinstar Dome. The plan of the dome with two overlapping circles had been uniquely shaped by the architect, Roberto Ferreira, to provide an individual identity to each of the two football clubs who share the use of the facility. With the recovery of the Argentinean economy in 2009 construction of the dome was restarted for completion by early

2011. At the time the initial construction was interrupted, the trussed compression ring had been completed and both fabric and cables had been purchased and stored for the duration. It was decided in the first stage, not to cover the central part of the stadium with fabric although the cable system was erected allowing for the future addition that would complete the dome. With the resumption of construction, detailed design and fabrication of the connecting nodes was resumed, extensive testing of the stored materials was undertaken to verify that they had not degraded over the intervening years and a new erection scheme was developed by Birdair, the contractor engaged to complete the cable and fabric roof. The erection started with the construction of towers at each of the two peaks of the roof, laying out the outer tension ring on the pitch and lifting the ring. To create the kink in the ring cable at the intersection of the overlapping circles, a temporary cable was added across the width of the stadium. Once the ring was lifted in place, the lower diagonal cables were installed, connecting them to the compression ring. One at a time, the vertical posts were lifted into place and secured to the tension ring at their bottom. The ridge cables were connected from the compression ring to the top of the posts, which were secured by a temporary radial cable running to the towers. The detailed erection is described in the paper as is the method of fixing the fabric to the cable network.

View of Completed Dome

2. Project Description.
The plan is derived from the intersection of two circles with radii of 85m and with centers 48m apart.

Plan of Ridge Cable Layout

Along the perimeter of the dome is a triangular steel trussed compression ring about 9m wide and 13m high, with a gutter running along the outer top chord and louvered sides for ventilation. The vertical posts of this compression truss form a colonnaded gallery at the back of the stands. This ring truss sits at the top of a berm that forms the seating bowl for the stadium. In crosssection, the stadium is therefore seen as a low profile structure with an above grade berm rising from a below grade playing field. This profile was determined to balance the cut and fill on the site to the greatest possible extent. At the top of the posts of the compression ring is an inner top chord that forms the spring line for the dome, which consists of a triangulated ridgenet of cables, characteristic of a Tenstar Dome construction. A series of three tension hoops step inward and upward from this inner top chord. The first of these hoops is held by both radial and triangulated cables (rather than the triangulated cables alone as in previous Tenstar Domes such as the Georgia Dome), sloping down from the inner top chord. From the node at the intersection of the radial cables and the hoop, rigid vertical posts rise to top ridgenet nodes. Diagonal cables angle down from these nodes to pick up the next tension hoop which, in turn, supports the second set of posts. This sequence is repeated until reaching the top of the third ring. An array of radial cables springs from the third ring to form the tent-like cupola of each peak. These cupolas actually consist of two overlapping surfaces that provide a weather-protected monitor, which lets air to flow freely through 15m diameter openings in the lower level roof surface of each of the two peaks. A diamond-like shaped skylight crowns each peak accentuating the identity of the two ball clubs. Catwalks are placed along the outer two tension hoops to permit the installation of lights, speakers, and rigging for special events. Bridges span between the hoops, linking the catwalks and providing support for power and communication cables. A large 4-sided video screen is hung from the center of the arch. Skyboxes and control booths, hung from the steel truss inner chord, are placed on the two sides of the stadium within the space of the compression ring. 3. Structural Concept.

The Tenstar Dome is a tensegrity system that is defined as a spatial network in a state of selfstress. The system consists of four elements: triangulated cable ridgenet, triangulated diagonal cables, hoop cables, and rigid vertical posts. The system works like a truss in which the bottom chord is interrupted and then follows the line of hoop cables around to the opposite side of the arena. The system is truly three dimensional rather than planar and therefore benefits from the triangularization of structural elements. This improves load-carrying capability and permits nonconventional geometry, such as the intersecting circles of the La Plata Dome. In order to prevent cables from becoming slack under load, the system needs to be prestressed. The level of such prestressing is established based on the load combination acting on the roof that would cause a cable to go slack. Prestressing satisfies the criterion for a tensegrity system and also produces a reduction of deformation of the system. As a consequence, the roof is extremely rigid, comparable to a tightly held drum. The triangulated compression ring supporting the dome is designed to carry gravity loads from the dome as well as wind loads acting against the roof surfaces. A certain level of lateral resistance is therefore required between the ring and the supporting foundation system. At the same time, the roof structure is subject to expansion and contraction due to temperature variations. Internal

stresses in the ring due to restrained temperature deformations were evaluated and found to be acceptable if only one support on each side of the kink was radially released. This was accomplished by providing sliding Teflon bearings in a guideway that permit radial movements but restrain circumferential displacements. All other ring truss supports are fixed to the foundation. The ring truss is supported on pile caps at the top of the berm, with piles that extend down to virgin soil. Grade beams tie the pile caps together and act essentially as the bottom chord of the trussed compression ring. 4. Connections.

The design of the Tenstar Dome assumes that no adjustment will be required in the specified lengths for most of the cables. This implies that most cables will be fixed at nodes, either by dead ending with a socket joint or firmly anchoring continuous cables with a friction clamp. Top chord fixed connectors in the ridgenet are designed to simulate continuity of cables along the intersecting diagonal lines. Fixed connectors are also used at the top of the roof around the two center openings and at the inner top chord of the compression ring. Bottom connectors are designed to permit the hoop cables to be continuous and therefore are clamped. The diagonal cables ending at the hoop connector are the fixed socket types. All connectors are assembled and welded together out of steel plates. The principle that is followed in the assembly procedure is to avoid subjecting welds to tension. At select location, some cables were installed with adjustable bridge-socket fittings. This was done to facilitate installation, and the intent is that the cables will not be adjusted after construction is complete.
Fixing Hoop Cables to Node

5. Covering. The roof is covered with a Teflon-coated fiberglass fabric in panels that are fixed to the cables. Since the facility requires a natural grass field according to FIFA rules, it was necessary to find a fabric that possessed the characteristics of high translucency. Previously available PTFE-glass fabrics had at most a 16% translucency, which is not sufficient to insure the survival of grass. A new fabric, UltraLUX, with more open weave and a resulting translucency of over 24% was developed by Chemfab and is being used for the first time in this dome. This fabric has a tensile strength of 171 kg/cm, less than 5% weaker than the more commonly used Teflon/glass fabric with greater opacity. It is a characteristic of the Tenstar Dome that the cable structure is totally stable and does not rely on the fabric for stability. The fabric is therefore merely a roofing material. The roof will be covered in two stages. Initially, only the outer two rings of the roof have been covered with a

closure cable in a scalloped configuration at the second ring. In the second stage, the inner rings will be covered and the cupolas installed. The final decision on proceeding with the full cover rests on economic decisions. A unique study looked at ways to test new varieties of grass and methods of treating the pitch. This study was carried out by a joint venture between the University of La Plata and Michigan University. Under a greenhouse roof made of the Teflon/fiberglass fabric plats of different varieties of grasses were grown and subject to a variety of tests for toughness, durability, endurance etc. These tests provided valuable data but it was decided in the years since the study was completed to use pallets of grass grown outside the stadium that could be moved in when needed for a game. The asphalt base surface of the playing field could thus be used for non-sports events without damaging the pitch. 6. Construction. The typical method of erecting a Tenstar Dome by first hanging the ridgenet from the perimeter truss is not practical in the case of the Twinstar Dome. The rigid elements that make up the arch section at the pinched waist centerline of the dome complicate this method. Instead of lifting the roof from the perimeter truss, the roof is lifted from the center. This is accomplished by erecting two temporary towers, one at the center of each of the two intersecting rings. The outermost tension ring is first laid out on the pitch. Since the ring will be above the seating area in its final position, it must be laid in a compressed manner to fit on the pitch. To avoid damage to the seating, the ring must first be lifted straight up, and then expanded to its full circumference while in the air. Two sets of cables are used to lift the ring. The main lifting cables run from the top of the tower, through a sheave block on the ring weldment, through another sheave at the top of the compression ring, back to termination at the weldment. When these cables are jacked

Lifting Cables Plan

Jacking Cable Arrangement

from the top of the tower, they simultaneously pull the ring upwards and outwards. A second set of restraint cables is strung from the top of the tower out to the ring. As the ring is first lifted, these cables are also tensioned to keep the ring away from the seating. Once the ring is high enough to clear the seating, the restraint cables are let out to expand the ring. The entire ring is lifted at once, with equal tension in all cables to balance the load on the towers. Guy cables are installed between the tops of the towers to balance the eccentric loading resulting from the fact that each tower is only lifting a partial circle. To create the kink in the ring cable at the intersection of the overlapping circles, a temporary cable is added across the width of the stadium. Once the ring is lifted in place, the lower diagonal cables are installed, connecting it to the compression ring. One at a time, the vertical posts are lifted into place and secured to the tension ring at their bottom. The ridge cables

are connected from the compression ring to the top of the post, which is secured by a temporary radial cable running to the tower. The second tension ring is lifted in a similar manner, this time connecting to the top of the posts at the first ring. The compression arch truss is installed simultaneously with the cable nets. Secondary construction towers are erected at the reentrant corners of the second tension ring to provide temporary support for the compression arch during installation. Construction continues with the installation of the third ring. In its complete state, the inward component of the force at the kink in the compression ring is resisted by the center arch. However, the construction sequence is such that the arch is installed in parallel with the cable net. Compressive forces in the ring begin to develop as soon as the first cables are lifted off the ground, but the arch doesnt provide any resistance until it is complete. As a result, there is a progressive inward movement at the kink of the ring throughout the cable net installation. Furthermore, since the top-chord members of the arch are all steel pipes of fixed length, the arch must be installed with its center slightly higher than the theoretical final position. The arch is constructed with a telescoping vertical member at its center. After the assembly of the arch is complete, this telescoping member is pulled down with hydraulic jacks to precompress the arch and push the ring back out to its final position. During the construction process, it became necessary to make some modifications to the structure. Fortunately, the steel fabricator, Astillero Rio Santiago (ARS), was also actively involved with the steel erection and was available to make last-minute changes to some of the components. Firstly, the top chord of the arch branches out from a single member to a Y-shape where it connects to the compression ring. The installation procedure demands some rotation of the partially complete arch. However, the axis of the connection pins is perpendicular to the axis of the members, but the two pins are not parallel to each other, making rotation impossible. A ball-joint was constructed allowing for bi-axial rotation. Secondly, at the truss top chord nodes adjacent to the center node, the connection node is pinned to the top chord members on each side and fixed to the vertical post below. A local instability occurs at this node when the differential weights of the top chord members framing into the node induce a slight rotation at the top of the post. Once the node rotates,

the compressive forces in the arch top chord are no longer concentric to the work point of the connection. This eccentricity creates additional rotation. The issue was resolved by stiffening the vertical post. Since the Tenstar Dome does not require fabric for stiffening the cable structure, fabric installation followed upon completion of the erection of the structure.

Fabric Installation

Foundations for the trussed compression ring were first laid in 1998. With the ring completed, the stadium opened for use, uncovered, on June 7, 2003. Roof construction began in late 2009. Prior to construction, the material for the roof that had been stored since the interruption of construction in 2001. Steel pipes, nodes and cables had been stored outdoors and were subject to detailed inspection to verify that no deterioration had taken place. The steel elements were sandblasted and repainted and the cables were uncoiled and re-coiled. The fabric which had been stored in a warehouse was thoroughly tested to assure that no loss of properties had taken place since the fabric had been stored folded on pallets. The testing procedure verified that all the material could be used and would conform to the original specifications. Additional steel elements that had not been originally fabricated were completed by the steel fabricator. Phase I was completed for an official opening on February 17, 2011 in time to host the opening game of the 2011 Copa America. 7. Acknowledgements: Construction of the first phase of the roof was under the direction of Birdair, Inc. Weidlinger Associates, Inc. was the structural engineer for the project.

Completed Phase I Roof