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22 May 2019

So, let’s be honest, how many of you thought that the arch at Wembley Stadium was just for decoration – an iconic structure to replace the 1920’s twin towers and something to spot from the London Eye? When I was watching Manchester City’s emphatic win against Watford in the FA Cup Final last Saturday though, it occurred to me that maybe there is a bit more to it…

It turns out that the fully welded 1700 tonne, 134 metre high arch is not just an aesthetic landmark on the London skyline, but actually supports the entire weight of the north roof and 60% of the retractable south roof. At 315 metres, it is the world’s longest single span roof structure, its design masterminded to avoid the use of columns that would obstruct the spectators view. The roof was erected onto 6000 tonnes of temporary towers which were moved when the supporting tensile loads were applied to an asymmetric catenary cable net, itself then attached to the lattice arch which spans 220 metres across the stadium bowl.

The arch was fabricated in sections of 21 metres, each weighing 100 tonnes. These were assembled at ground level and then lifted into position using strand jacks which fed the steel structure into place in the manner of a caterpillar walking. Pitched at an angle of 112 degrees, the arch makes Wembley the tallest stadium in the world.

The arch also allows for the famous retractable roof which not only provides cover for all those seated in the stadium, but can also be moved to avoid shadows on the pitch and create optimum grass growing conditions. The construction of the new Wembley Stadium was not without its complications, but what an inspired design for the ultimate sporting venue.