Forsyth Barr Stadium, New Zealand

Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand, is the world’s only permanently covered stadium with a natural turf playing field. It was officially opened in August 2011 in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. It has been heralded with widespread praise for its great atmosphere and functionality.

This was a visionary project. Throughout the entire planning stages of the stadium, the client (Carisbrook Charitable Stadium Trust) and the project team ensured that the turf remained at the forefront of the design in this ‘whole stadium’ solution. The stadium was built around the turf rather than the other way round. This was a project where the design process was driven by feasibility. From day one it was a rigorous and challenging process with the words “no more time, no more money, find another solution” featuring as a common phrase to the design team.

The key challenge for the design team was growing strong, healthy turf under a fixed roof made of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE). A team of turf experts, engineers and the stadium architects undertook rigorous studies using a test rig over a two year period to understand the effects of ETFE on grass growth under contrasting seasonal conditions in order to ensure the pitch would be of the high standard required for international sporting events. The test rig was also used to test the light simulation software for the amount of useful light passing through the ETFE pillows. Verifying the light transmission in the test rig enabled full scale computer modelling for the actual stadium design to proceed with confidence.

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