Specialist steelworks contractor, Eversendai, brings the magic of the theatre to life with building information modelling software
Dubai Opera, sitting at the foot of Burj Khalifa is poised to become the city’s latest marquee location. Built as much as a statement of the city’s cultural aspirations, as a multi-format performing arts centre, it opens in late August with a sold out Placido Domingo concert and a raft of other shows planned before the end of the year.
The elegant lines of Dubai Opera mask the engineering complexity of the steel structured building. Consisting of over 3,600 tonnes of structural steel, the 2,000 seat theatre has been designed from the ground up to be a ‘state of the art’ venue. Fulfilling the multifunctional remit has presented serious design and engineering challenges.
“Defining the shape itself has been a huge task on this job,” says Sreenivasa Rao Vipparla, (better known as VS Rao) head of design and engineering department, Eversendai, the specialist steelworks subcontractor, appointed by developer Emaar for the project.
“There had to be a lot of interfaces with the different trades [such as façade, cladding and ventilation]. This is a multi-format theatre so there are different acoustic and lighting elements”, to take into account, he adds.
The multi-directional curved roof, arguably the defining architectural feature of the structure, posed a particular challenge in the design of the connections at the ‘nodes’, where more than 12 elements are meeting in different orientations on hollow column sections.
The dhow inspired design minimised the number of columns, trusses and braces, meaning that there were minimal secondary elements between the roofing façade and the steel structure. The columns were each 35m tall and designed to slant with no intermittent lateral tie restraints between supports at either the top or bottom.
The end restraints of the columns were designed with an idealised pin connection, which was provided with a perfect single machine pin, however torsionally restrained.
Consequently, the design had to be 100% accurate in terms design and fabrication, first time, as no adjustments would be possible later.
The steel structure also has to support the multifunctional requirements of the venue. Dubai Opera’s internal space can transform to accommodate opera, theatre, concerts, exhibitions, banquets and conferences. The different formats are achieved through various moving floors, walls and ceilings that create different seating and stage configurations.
The structure’s ceiling has to support platform staging areas, complex lighting and acoustic equipment, as well as other hanging elements. “It’s a theatre, so there will be a lot of magic… and the structure is custom made to fit those elements,” explains VS Rao.