The Structural Awards 2016 Shortlist Focus: Andy Pottinger, a structural engineer with BuroHappold, has been a member of the Institution of Structural Engineers since 2001. Here he discusses his career, his favourite stadiums, and his work on the project to expand Manchester City Football Club’s stadium with a new South Stand - making it the third largest football stadium in the Premier League.
After studying Civil Engineering at Aston University and taking some time out to travel the world, I joined engineering firm Adams Kara Taylor in London –where I realised that structural engineering was for me. It’s a wonderful profession that allows me to work with all kinds of creative people - designing the buildings, bridges and other structures that enrich people’s lives.
I’m proud of every project I’ve been involved with, but the new Louvre Abu Dhabi project is very close to my heart - working with Ateliers Jean Nouvel to create a new museum built into the water around Abu Dhabi. The 180m Dome in particular is a wonderful example of engineers and architects working together.
My favourite stadium:
I’m in the Sports and Entertainment team at BuroHappold so this is a common subject of conversation over coffee or beer. I have two parts to my brain, one that’s a structural engineer and one that’s a passionate football fan, and they don’t always overlap.
I’ll never forget walking out to my seat in the old Wembley for the first time in 1988 – so much history and character, even with columns in the way! And the San Siro in Milan has so much presence.
In terms of elegance, the new stadium in Bordeaux is hard to beat, and our recent conversion of the 2012 Olympic Stadium is something of which we’re very proud.
The Etihad Stadium:
We’re delighted to see our work on the Etihad Stadium shortlisted for a Structural Award. There are some great designs out there but we feel the new south stand provided a truly unique solution to a series of unusual challenges.
Vital to our success was a willingness to embrace the constraints of the site, working with them to create an elegant structure that provides fans with a memorable experience.
From day one our mission was to create a new stand that was sympathetic to the original structure – and we were helped enormously by the leadership of Fergus McCormick, who had a heavy involvement with the original design. Our design is very different to the original, but the flow of the roof and the component detailing are all intended to respect and complement the existing stadium.
There were a number of individual challenges within the overall requirement to create a new world class stand in 18 months with minimal impact on the club’s operations. These challenges included:
How to modify an existing cable-net roof with complex geometry and load-paths?
With architects Populous we developed an approach of building behind and above the old roof, using lightweight and efficient systems, such that the new roof structures had minimal interference with the old one.
(New roof structure)
How to provide rain protection to fans while building the new structure?
This project wasn’t just about the final result - extraordinary engineering design solutions were required for the temporary works, which had to keep fans safe and covered during construction; this saw us modify the previous roof for one season, and carry out a number of complex modifications and load transfer operations.
How to flow the geometry of the new south stand with the existing east and west stands?
We achieved this with a complex curved space frame, designed to be removable in the future if further development requires it.
How to work around the components that needed to remain in place?
We carried out extensive 3D studies to help us map the way new masts and backstays would wrap and weave around existing masts and backstays.
(New roof stay and mast structure)
How to make the new tier overhang the existing tiers?
The overhang was so extensive that a cantilevering cross-section would not have been dynamically viable. This led us to a key piece of the conceptual cross-section – a front prop that penetrates through the mid-tier and first floor, founded below the existing concourse. The distinctive triangles you can see from the pitch were our way of avoiding a clash with the existing concrete rakers and provide a wonderfully architectural expression of the structural engineering.
The project could not have been achieved without the proactive engagement of design and construction teams working closely together. This was very much a team effort led, of course, by Manchester City Football Club.
We all felt immensely proud to see our work completed, and relieved that we’d ‘got there’ for the opening game of the season against Chelsea. I think it was only then, and when I filled out the Structural Award application form, that I realised what we had achieved.
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