Arena Zagrebis the multipurpose indoor arena located in the south-western part of Zagreb, Croatia, that has primarily been planned as a central sports hall for hosting the 2009 World Men's Handball Championship.
However, since venues of such capacity cannot be profitable if capable of hosting only sporting competitions, Arena has been designed as multifunctional hall with all spatial and functional characteristics that enable maximal flexibility and provide numerous events. This influence is mostly present in the flexibility of the grandstand, in preserving sufficient and various spaces reserved for athletes, other performers and event managers, in providing simple and fluid visitors circulation from entering point to the seat on the stand and offer various catering facilities, in dividing the whole building in smaller mutually independent spatial zones that can be used separately, in acoustic interventions inside the hall shell and at last in securing sufficient bearing capacity of steel roof structure capable for suspension of additional scene equipment.
When experienced in city macro-scale, Arena Zagreb is positioned at one of the city main high-way entrances, as an extension of Savska Street - one of the main city traffic line axes as well as an extension of Jarun Lake - one of the main city recreation zones. Experienced in city micro-scale it is positioned in the district with huge development plans, representing the central point of the new planned shopping / entertainment centre surrounded with new planned residential zones. By recent reconstruction of access roads the whole area got suitable and well dimensioned traffic connection to the remaining parts of the city.
This multi-functional venue is composed of 6 floor levels, covering total GBA of 90.340 m2 on a 29.540 m2 footprint. Functional area partition follows the circulation routes of different users. Underground level is mainly garage space approachable by 2 car ramps with total 956 parking capacity (additionally, the 3.300 parking places in future nearby shopping centre will be used as well). On the ground floor the field of play with all necessary athletes-, performers-, judges-, trainer?s facilities are positioned as well as rentable office area. The central arena?s court can be transformed depending on the event.. The 1st floor represents the main pedestrian approach level with four main entrances to the venue. The visitors enter the grandstand directly from this level or by rising to the 3rd floor passing through the circular halls with numerous catering facilities, which are partly connected to the pedestrian platform and usable also independently from the venue. The 2nd floor is reserved for VIP-guests and media stuff having their own fully equipped spaces with possibility of multi-functional usage also for conferences, workshops or congresses. The restaurant on this level offers direct view to the court and can be used during events, but also independently. The 4th floor is reserved for technical equipment, and is also connected to catwalks distributed underneath the roof and used for maintenance of lighting and loudspeaker devices assembled along them. All described zones are mutually independent and equipped with sufficient number of separated accesses with very clear user?s circulation system-quick and easy entering and exiting is secured, and mixing user?s circulation routes is avoided.
Arena Zagreb is also designed for hosting numerous other sporting, cultural, entertainment and business events such as indoor football, basketball, volleyball, indoor athletics, hockey, other sporting competitions and also concerts, exhibitions, fairs, congresses and family shows. In order to adequately accommodate such events, numerous supporting facilities are provided - catering, sanitary, cloak room, office and similar spaces; also the small training hall with its own facilities and smaller multi-functional spaces on the 2nd floor can be used for mini congresses, workshops and / or lectures.
The flexibility of this venue is most evident by the grandstand transformability. According to the main seating configuration for handball competitions (also basketball, volleyball, tennis and indoor football) the grandstand covers 15.024 seats of which 151 incorporated for disabled spectators. The lowest part of the grandstand is a zone of 15-row retractable stands (26-row at the northern side - potential stage position) with 4.556 seats (plus additional 132 free seats at the court level). The remaining part of the grandstand is fixed and incorporates 10.336 seats divided on lower and upper stand. This includes 314 VIP seats in front of VIP boxes. For other sports events (table tennis, badminton, gymnastic, boxing, wrestling...) there is a possibility of putting additional seats at the court level, and for indoor athletics, all telescopic stands must be retracted, which reduces the capacity. Cultural and entertainment events (concerts, exhibitions, fairs?) demand the grandstand to be transformed in line with the requirements of the event organizer, so the ground space can be used for additional seating or standing places. If the nature of the event requires reduced seating capacity, the upper part of the stand can be enclosed using the suspended textile partitions.
The unique shape of this building is strongly inspired by its significance in the city context, but also by its mega-structural characteristics that predefined main bearing elements. Shaped as a protective rib cage around the building essence ? the court, 86 large pre-stressed, pre-fabricated concrete curved columns form the main fade, mutually connected by illuminate semi-translucent polycarbonate envelope that enables various light effects.
The elevated pedestrian access platform connects the building through several pedestrian ramps and staircases to the existing surrounding as well as to the neighbouring new planned shopping / entertainment centre, representing by its emphasis the future gathering point.
The example of last Olympic Games in Beijing demonstrates the spectacular and theatrical context of contemporary sporting events, which requires adequate spatial response in architectural solutions for hosting venues. On the other hand, their size in comparison with the standard city scale, also implicates the significance they have in the global city image. However, it takes much more: by well designed shaping synergized with structural requirements and urban context all conditions are fulfilled for iconic recognition and for access to the list of city emblems. Hopefully Arena Zagreb achieved that intention!