STUFISH Entertainment Architects has designed the ABBA Arena – a brand new performance space in East London. The 3,000-capacity arena will serve as the home for ABBA’s virtual concert ABBA Voyage, which opened 26 May 2022. The building is set to become a new cultural destination in the city, situated close to Pudding Mill Lane DLR station.
The steel and timber building has been conceived as a mysterious, intriguing object that demands attention, whilst creating a welcoming atmosphere for visitors to enjoy their experience. Designed from the inside out, the 25.5m high hexagonal form of the arena is in response to the requirements of the show, the staging and the desired seating geometry. The largest of its kind, the structure has been designed as a demountable temporary venue, which is able to be relocated to another site at the end of its five-year tenure in East London.
At the heart of the arena, the auditorium houses high tech capabilities and offers a unique immersive entertainment experience, designed to fit 1,650 seats and space for a standing audience of 1,350. The structure of the temporary venue that sits on concrete pads, is designed to create an internal clear span of 70m to allow for a large 360° immersive production.
Built by ES Global, it has been optimised to be as light as possible to minimise the load on foundations. The design of the roof is a direct response to the large structural span of the auditorium and a desire to compliment the venue’s mysterious appearance. An engineering feat, the arena is unified beneath a semi-axisymmetric steel dome weighing in at 744 tonnes, which during construction was built on the ground and then lifted 25.5m into the air by 18 strand jacks to its final position.
The roof and wall cladding have been designed to meet the acoustic performance of the venue and to limit the effects of noise on surrounding residential areas. To contrast with the spectacle of the high tech show inside, the external structure that braces the steel dome roof and auditorium, is clad with a porous screen of sustainable timber battens. The large ABBA logo is integrated onto two facades with LED light strips following the timber.
Outside the auditorium an extended concourse area is used to serve visitors as they arrive, sheltered from the elements by a large timber canopy built by Stage One. Like the superstructure itself, the canopy is a modular system that can be removed in sections and can be reconfigured to meet the needs of a new site once it has relocated. Timber modules follow the hexagonal shape of the venue to accommodate food and beverage options, retail, toilets, and a guest lounge.
After undergoing rapid change under the LLDC Legacy Communities Scheme, Pudding Mill Lane was identified as the suitable location for the revolutionary new venue, due to its closeness to nearby cultural hubs, Olympic Park and neighbouring Hackney and Stratford. Prior to construction the site was vacant and occasionally used for temporary event parking. As part of its sustainable environmental agenda, its proximity to public transport links made Pudding Mill a desirable choice and once opened, Crossrail will allow even more options for visitors to reach the venue by public transport. The transport assessment indicates that 83% of visitors will travel to the arena using public transport.
Ray Winkler, CEO of STUFISH Entertainment Architects said: “The ABBA Arena, a portable venue, will set the standard for future shows where the physical and the digital fuse to create a new genre of experience in the Physical world.”
Alicia Tkacz, Partner at STUFISH Entertainment Architects said: “This unique project provided the perfect blend of architecture and entertainment, allowing us to create an amazing immersive experience for the audience, that has never been seen before.”
As well as the architects for the venue that will house ABBA’s long-awaited concert, STUFISH Entertainment Architects have also been commissioned as the stage designer for the virtual ABBA VOYAGE show under the direction of Producers Svana Gisla and Ludvig Andersson and Director Baillie Walsh.