ABBA Arena, the newly opened home of the legendary music group’s revolutionary London show, ABBA Voyage, is not only a clever physical space to house an innovative virtual concert; it is also the world’s largest demountable temporary venue. The structure, a subtly mysterious, timber-clad, hexagonal volume placed near Pudding Mill Lane DLR station in east London, is a brand new performance space for the capital, created through the expertise of architects Stufish. The studio, also responsible for behind impressive stage set designs such as Beyonce and Jay-Z’s On The Run II tour, conceived this piece of entertainment architecture as only the practice’s fifth ground-up new-build structure – and its first outside China. 

The building was designed ‘from the inside out’, the architects explain. The geometry of the external volume is a direct result of the requirements of the show taking place inside it – the stage, set design and audience needs (it includes 1,650 seats and space for a standing audience of 1,350). At the same time, it is flexible through its prefabricated, demountable nature – after the show runs its course (it has a five-year tenure at its current location), it can be taken down and relocated elsewhere seamlessly.  

ABBA Arena and abba voyage show still

‘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,’ Stufish CEO Ray Winkler says. Stufish partner Alicia Tkacz adds: ‘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.’

Beyond the impressive musical experience it offers, the ABBA Arena is an equally striking feat of engineering. It has been optimised to be as light as possible, in order to minimise the load on the foundation, while its clear roof span is possible thanks to advanced structural magic. The structure’s semi-axisymmetric steel dome weighs some 744 tonnes and it was prefabricated on the ground (by builders ES Global) before being lifted in place above its foundations.

Now it stands, clad in sustainable timber with the ‘ABBA’ sign shining through the battens in LED, inviting guests in and glowing like a fun beacon for music and performance. Meanwhile, an extended sheltered concourse area just outside protects visitors, built by Stage One, ensuring functionality goes hand in hand with spectacle in this unique London venue. §


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