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INC's Philippine Arena a ‘challenge’ for firm behind London's O2

Conceptualizing the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena was not an easy feat even for a world-renowned professional services firm whose portfolio include iconic, outdoor structures such as the London Olympic Park, O2 Arena and Dublin’s Aviva Stadium.
Chris Sparrow, group director at British company Buro Happold, said the Philippine Arena’s sheer size posed a challenge for the architects and engineers involved in conceptualizing its design.
“Working with a building of that size and with a unique kind of structure posed a challenge for us. We had to think how to go about its structural integrity, its safety… even planning about the air-conditioning was challenging,” he told reporters Monday after the arena was inaugurated.
Iglesia ni Cristo, one of the largest homegrown Christian churches in the Philippines, engaged Buro Happold in 2011 to execute the structural design for Philippine Arena. 
To strengthen the structural integrity, the architects and engineers divided the building into individual structures to better resist seismic forces, Sparrow said.
The humongous roof was built and treated as a separate unit so as not to burden the entire structure with the extra load.
The result was a structurally sound arena that can “last for ages,” Sparrow claimed.
P7.8-B price tag
Considered as the centerpiece within the 50-hectare Ciudad de Victoria property owned by Iglesia ni Cristo in Bocaue, Bulacan – 24.5 kms northeast of the capital Manila – the Philippine Arena encompasses a bowl-shaped design inspired by the narra, the Philippine national tree, and covered by a roof that was patterned after the thatched top of a traditional nipa hut.
As befitting such a high-profile project, Iglesia ni Cristo took in highly-acclaimed designers, builders and engineers what is now known as one of the world’s largest indoor arena. 

According to Agence-France Presse, the Singapore National Stadium, completed in June, also seats 55,000 people and has (also) been hailed in the press as the world's largest domed structure.
Apart from Buro Happold, Iglesia ni Cristo contracted Australian architecture firm Populous and South Korea's Hanwha Engineering Construction Corporation.
Populous is the architect behind the Leeds Arena in the UK and the Nanjing Sports Park in China while Hanwha is famed for its work on the Bismayah New City project in Iraq.
The construction cost for the Philippine Arena is estimated at $200 million or P7.8 billion.
Bro. Edwin Zabala, Iglesia ni Cristo spokesperson, said building the arena became possible because of “God’s goodness and the generosity of our members.”
Growing church
Funds to build the Philippine Arena were sourced from donations by church members.
“For the past 100 years, itinuturo po ng aming simbahan ang kusang pagkakaloob. Ito naman po ay walang pilitan. Kung anuman ang aming nakalap ay nagagamit lamang para sa mga pangangailangan ng simbahan,” Zabala said.
The concept for Philippine Arena was borne of a need to have a large venue for the growing number of INC members.
While the basic idea was to use it as a venue for major church events, the arena can also be utilized for sports and concerts because it has been equipped to cater to a variety of occasions including athletic meets to live band performances. 
The venue was designed in such a way that “there are clear sightlines from every seat on each tier” for various configurations such as church service or sporting activities, Populous noted. 
On July 27, at least two million believers of the politically influential Iglesia ni Cristo are expected to converge at the arena for the church’s centennial celebrations. – VS/KG, GMA News