The Cloud: Queens Wharf, Auckland, RWC 2011 Event Centre

The Cloud is an iconic fabric membrane structure of international standing commissioned for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The Cloud, otherwise known as ‘Party Central’ was the focal point for Cup functions & events.

Project Details

Client: Auckland Council
Fabric Type: ETFE, PVC
Function: Architectual
Scope of Work: Concept, Design & Build
Location: Queens Wharf, Auckland, NZ
Size: 178.5m x 21m (3,400sqm)
Completion: 9th August 2011

The design of the Cloud was a collaborative effort between Fabric Structures & Jasmax Architects. Although Queens Wharf dictated the shape & size of the structure, the Cloud’s sculptural shape was the result of extensive modelling & form finding.

To efficiently achieve the Cloud’s shape we adopted a standard truss shape that was oscillated up and down, around a virtual centre line. The variation in wall heights could then efficiently be achieved with varying height columns.

The Cloud is 11 metres high, 178.5 metres long; each truss spans 29 metres at its widest part, and is 21.9 metres at wharf level. There are doors along the length of the structure on both sides that can be left open to create an airy walk-through ambience, or kept closed to suit the individual event. There is a 500sqm mezzanine floor at the harbour end with exterior balcony, which was designed for the media and VIPs during the Rugby World Cup. 

The roof of the Cloud is predominantly 1002-T2 PVC. However the last two bays over the VIP mezzanine are single skin ETFE membranes, which were introduced to create a sense of openness & connection with the harbour. 46 single skin ETFE panels were also used for the wall panels down each side of the Cloud.

Under the south atrium forecourt a white 502PVC ceiling liner was installed concealing all trusses & structural steel, producing depth and “cloud” like form to the roof.

To finish off the plush interior of the mezzanine fabric ceiling liners where fabricated & installed using Serge Ferrari Soltis 92. The curvaceous shape & texture of the liners, along with the detailing of air-conditioning vents penetrating the liner are a real feature of this space.

Another feature of the structure is its natural ventilation. After extensive HVAC modelling the client opted to naturally ventilate the structure. Ventilation slots down the entire length of the building where incorporated into the design, along with mesh ventilation panels in all the door recesses.

The project presented many challenges for us. The tight program meant that fabrication of steel had to start, before the full design was completed. Over half the structure was standing by the time the design of the mezzanine was concluded. With a very vague client, there were numerous design changes that had to be accommodated late in the piece, which pushed every one hard because of the fixed completion date. The design of the mezzanine area & incorporation of all the elements (eg, 3 sets of stairs, lift, bracing, services, air-conditioning plant etc) proved extremely challenging. Due to the high loads of the mezzanine columns, their set out had to co-ordinated with the existing wharf piles, all the while trying to achieve as much column free space on the ground floor as possible. With a changing client brief, we went through numerous design & engineering iterations before settling on the final design.