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Cox Architecture is the name behind many of Australia’s premier sporting venues – including AAMI Park in Melbourne (often referred to as the ‘bubbles’), the Sydney Football Stadium as well as the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Given its track record, the practice was also awarded the refurbishment of the Ken Rosewall Arena in Homebush, originally designed for the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.
However, this stadium was built with an open roof.
The Ken Rosewall Arena at Homebush in Sydney’s west was upgraded in design by Cox Architecture 
“The numbers attending were dropping off, particularly given the ATP Cup is held in January when it can be extremely hot and sometimes, teeming with rain,” says architect John Ferendinos, a director of Cox Architecture, who worked closely with his team, ARUP engineers and Tennis New South Wales on behalf of the NSW Office of Sport.
Homebush, a 20-minute drive from the city and now Sydney’s geographical centre, certainly attracts locals, as well as those coming from interstate or from overseas.
As in the case of the ATP Cup, the players and attendees required protection from inclement weather.
“The numbers attending were dropping off, particularly given the ATP Cup is held in January when it can be extremely hot and sometimes, teeming with rain.”
So, what started out for Cox Architecture as a brief to add a new fixed roof morphed into something considerably larger – basically the entire arena’s refurbishment. Only the concrete structure, containing the 10,000 seats, was retained.
The only protection from the elements had been a partial roof at the top of the stands for six rows in the top tier. Given the span of this area, around 100 metres in diameter, the solution to creating a new roof came in the form of a tensile fabric called PTFE, allowing the fixed roof to be translucent.
Combined with the highly sophisticated steel cables and operable glass windows sitting below this new roof, there’s a sense of it ‘floating’.
“It’s not dissimilar to the technique used to stretch rubber across a bicycle wheel, but, in this case the engineering is more complex and obviously the scale can’t be compared,” Ferendinos says.
From an aerial perspective, the sculpted roof is a work of art as much as an engineering feat.
“People have also likened the construction and form to an umbrella, but, of course there’s no handle in the middle to hold on to,” Ferendinos adds.
Cox Architecture was also mindful of creating a tennis court that could easily transform into a netball court.
When tennis matches are played, for example, the large screen sits below the roofline.
When it’s time for netball matches, a faux timber surface sits above the painted concrete court (six layers of paint are applied to create the rubbery surface used for tennis).
The screen for netball is also electronically transported so it moves to the middle of the court.
With the refurbishment, there was also the opportunity for Cox Architecture to provide new seating – blue in the main stands with the upper tier of seating given over to three different hues of blue, a technique that may only be apparent to sport aficionados.
“When you’re televising a match, you don’t want the upper tier seating to appear empty. Having the three tones of blue gives a sense of movement without people actually sitting in these seats,” says Ferendinos, who, with his colleagues, also upgraded the broadcasting system in the arena to ensure quality for those watching the game in the northern hemisphere.
While bathrooms were also upgraded, many of the cafes are still the portable type, located on the outside of the arena where people can take a break between matches and enjoy the surrounds.
Although coming up with a new roof structure and upgrading amenities didn’t trouble the architects, the timeline, delivered in approximately one year, did cause concern.
“That was the initial design phase to the delivery,” says Ferendinos, who explains that adding a fixed roof to the arena also meant a change in the building requirements, such as fire ratings.
Those fortunate enough to fly over the Ken Rosewall Arena would admire its delicate form, while those watching a match may think the arena still had no roof, given its lightness and translucent quality.
But the changes have certainly seen numbers expand, with these much-loved sporting events able to occur come rain, hail or shine.
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