Buro Happold Ltd for the Innovation of straight tensioned cables and flat fabric leading to the roof structure of the Millennium Dome
Buro Happold was chosen as the 1999 MacRobert Award winner for its innovative work in the use of pre-tensioned cables and flat fabric to construct the roof of the Millennium Dome. The Millennium Dome in Greenwich, London, with a 80,000 m2 floor area, is the largest roof structure of its kind in the world and as such it has attracted a great deal of public attention.
Buro Happold, pioneers of work on tented structures since 1976, first introduced this innovative technique in 1994. The move away from doubly curved shapes where the fabric carries the bulk of the tension allowed the use of much lighter covering materials. It was a development that they felt able to employ in the construction of the Millennium Dome in response both to tight budgetary and programme requirements.
The Buro Happold design of the Millennium Dome roof structure removes the traditional requirements for frequent internal masts and enabled a huge leap in scale. It also simplified on-site installation and hence reduced construction time. The move away from the traditional double surface curvature tension membrane structure has an added bonus in preventing ponding (collection of rain and snow melt) on the surface, which lowers the risk of membrane failure.
The team members at Buro Happold believe that their breakthrough in creating large span roofs was only limited by the site and architectural design requirements. With the growing acceptance of these structures as cost-effective space enclosures, there is potential for these MacRobert Award finalists to cover even larger areas than the Millennium Dome site, possibly building covered cities in extreme climate zones.