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King Abdulaziz University Sports Hall

Case Study:

The King Abdulaziz University sports hall in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is a versatile venue accommodating 5,000 spectators. It features a lightweight tensile structure with eight 30m-high steel tube masts and an exterior made of heavyweight polyester fabric, resembling a sand dune from a distance. Inspired by traditional Bedouin tents, the structure maximises sustainability by incorporating translucent materials to harness natural light.

  • Year - 1981
  • Duration - 3 years
  • Cost - £5m (£18m today)
  • Capacity - 5,000
  • Location - Saudi Arabia

Key Info

King Abdulaziz University Sports Hall - Lightweight and Sustainable

Engineers used eight 30m steel tube masts to support a 120m by 90m cable net with a light-coloured polyester fabric coated with PVC for the outer skin. A lighter tent fabric was used for the inner skin, creating a natural ventilation system. The cable net, made from 10,000m of cable with 57,000 clamps, took eight weeks to complete. Steel masts were temporarily secured with guy ropes, and raising the cable net took two days.

  • A tensile structure is a construction that relies on tension. There’s no compression or bending of the elements. Most tensile structures are supported by masts (as in the O2 Centre, formerly the Millennium Dome) or beams.
  • Engineers used wires dipped in soap bubbles (bubble nets) to model the complex curves of the sports hall’s roof and see what worked!

Did you know?

How Was It Made?

The project created a relatively inexpensive sports hall for King Abdulaziz University and has become a selling point for the university – attracting students and income.

How Has the Project Made a Difference?

Let’s listen to Structural Engineer, Jess Davies, explain how the structure of the King Abdulaziz University Sports Hall in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia differs from the structure of a normal sports hall.