SBP & GMP's rendering for the movable covering of Verona's Arena.


Calzedonia Group’s president Sandro Veronesi and Verona’s mayor Flavio Tosi revealed the winners of the competition dedicated to the city’s renowned Arena on Jan. 31, at the Politecnico university in Milan. Launched last March with the sponsorship of the Italian underwear and stocking specialist Calzedonia, the international contest aimed at selecting the best ideas for the creation of a movable covering for the Roman amphitheater was won by the group of architects SBP & GMP.

“The Arena is a unique historic-architectural reality worldwide,” said mayor Tosi, underscoring that the main goal of the contest was to ensure the protection and conservation of the building and to improve its functionality in hosting public events. Tosi mentioned how every year, about 14 million euros, or $15.1 million at current exchange, are invested in protecting Verona’s symbol from bad weather. “The rain is the major enemy of the Arena,” he said, explaining how this is causing fallings in the structure.

First introduced in 1995, the idea of creating a 129,167-square-foot movable covering was never really discussed since last year, when it was presented to the government’s ministers, who asked to receive real projects in order to evaluate the actual feasibility of the concept.

Veronesi contacted mayor Tosi to offer its group’s sponsorship and economic support for the contest and prizes. “Being an entrepreneur who owes a lot to his city, to be able to contribute to innovation, modernization and to give job opportunities to the young [generation] is all very positive,” said Veronesi.

A jury of seven experts evaluated the projects according to different criteria, including actual feasibility, functionality, sustainability, quality of the designs presented, architectural coherence and compatibility with the Arena’s structure and its security, as well as types of materials used, among others. Lightness and ease of movement were two of the other main features considered in assigning the points.

The German group of engineers and architects SBP & GMP, based in Stuttgart and Berlin, scooped the first prize, presenting a scenic, pleated covering designed according to a sophisticated rewinding system of cables and cloths. These disappear under a permanent structure in steel, located on one side of the amphitheater, harmoniously blending with the historic architecture.

SBP & GMP rendering for Verona's Arena movable covering.

SBP & GMP’s rendering for Verona’s Arena movable covering.  Courtesy Photo

“This is fantastic,” said mayor Tosi, adding that the jury’s decision was unanimous. “To be able to rewind the cables and conceal the infrastructure is the most relevant part of the project,” he added, highlighting that the estimated cost for the project is 13.5 million euros, or $14.6 million at current exchange.

Veronesi echoed praising the design and underscored how Calzedonia Group would not pull back from an eventual financing of the work. “If we have started this process, it’s because there’s the availability to [finance] it,” he said, stressing how, even if there won’t be other partners willing to help, his company “is able to back such expenses.”

The concealing element made the project stand out among the other 87 ideas presented, 78 percent of which were Italian. Sicilian-based Vincenzo Latina won the second prize with an essential design featuring permanent metal cables supporting inflatable segments, arranged next to each other.

Vincenzo Latina's rendering for Verona's Arena.

Vincenzo Latina’s rendering for Verona’s Arena.  Courtesy Photo

An Italian-Spanish ensemble lead by Roberto G.M. Ventura was third in the ranking thanks to a linear structure conceived to have no contact points with the Arena. A series of pillars arranged outside the building supports a cloth covering, which, when not in use, is collected in a central, permanent structure over the amphitheater.

Roberto G.M. Ventura's rendering for Verona's Arena.

Roberto G.M. Ventura’s rendering for Verona’s Arena.  Courtesy Photo

The top three projects have been awarded 40,000 euros, 20,000 euros and 10,000 euros, or $43,158, $21,577 and $10,789, respectively. Calzedonia Group’s total economic participation in the contest was around 100,000 euros, or $107,882, supporting the jury’s work in addition to the prizes for the winners.

The international contest was just the first step in the process of the actual realization of a movable covering. The winning concept will be presented once again to the Italian ministry of cultural assets, which will make the final decision on the works. If approved, the structure is expected to take about a year and a half to build.

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