Future Arena in Rio by Lopes, Santos & Ferreira Gomes Arquitetos and AndArchitects

published in sb 5/2016

Leaving a legacy to Brazilian children - Future Arena transforms to school buildings


This architectural project had to search for suitable solutions in diversified interfaces in the complex system of sports equipment for the games and its legacy. Unlike other arenas located in the Olympic Park, the arena will be used in the construction of four public city schools right after the games. A building was therefore developed that gave priority to concepts like flexibility, mutability and adaptability in its construction.

The brief for the handball arena was to build something that would contribute to the city of Rio de Janeiro beyond the 2016 Olympic Games. Lopes, Santos & Ferreira Gomes Arquitetos, Oficina de Arquitetos, & Paulo Casé in collaboration with UK-based AndArchitects provided the design for the handball arena.

During the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Future Arena hosted the handball and the goalball competitions. The arena had a capacity of 12,000 spectators for the Olympic Games and 5,204 spectators in Paralympic mode. The total built-up area was 24,214 m².

“Nomadic architecture”

By using an innovative technique called “nomadic architecture”, it was ensured that even a temporary structure can leave a lasting legacy. The core of the project consisted of an octagonal area, where the competitions were held, and its stands. There was also an independent and temporary metal structure. It had an octagonal shape so that the modular structures could be adapted to separate spatial organisations to enable their transformation. The building skin was composed of cladding made of recycled wood enveloping the building. This system was intended to filter external light and to absorb the landscape silhouette showing the geographic fluidity of the environment.

After the games, the structures are due to be dismantled and used in the construction of four state schools thus leaving a lasting legacy to the city of Rio de Janeiro. Careful thought was given to what materials and systems of construction would allow this transition with minimal wasted material. The main elements that will be reused are the roof, reconstituted timber rain-screen cladding, the main structural steel elements and disabled ramps, which will form the shells of the four schools. The schools were designed simultaneously with the arena. The grid for the floor plates and the roof were all designed from the outset for both buildings so that the panels on the façade and on the floor and roof could be easily relocated in order for the modules to work for both buildings.

The open nature of the rain screen and external ramps that create a distinctive architectural language for the arena will be recognisable in the architecture of the new schools. Three schools will be constructed in Barra da Tijuca and one in Maracanã – each accommodating 500 students – as part of a 57 million euro legacy project.