10 Strange Structural Engineering Marvels

Melbourne Rectangular Stadium (AAMI Park)
The Buckminster Fuller-inspired Melbourne Rectangular Stadium gets its photo snapped on April 26, 2011. © Ben Hosking/Arcaid/Corbis

Its name suggests a completely boring structure. After all, what could be strange or intriguing about a rectangular stadium? But when you take a bird's-eye view of AAMI Park, as it's known in Australia, you can see why the design has been hailed as the "next generation of sports stadia" [source: The Institution of Structural Engineers]. The most distinctive feature is the roof, which draws inspiration from the geodesic domes of American engineer R. Buckminster Fuller. To build a geodesic system, you piece together interlocking polygons to form a sphere. The resulting structure is strong, yet uses far fewer materials than something similar built with traditional construction methods.

The roof of AAMI Park actually boasts several geodesic domes, packed together like a complicated soap-bubble surface. And yet the stadium still manages to use 50 percent less steel than a typical cantilever structure [source: Major Projects Victoria]. It also contains significant amounts of recycled building material, collects rainwater from the roof and minimizes power use with an advanced building-automation system. When it opened in May 2010, it collected a number of awards for architectural innovation, structural engineering excellence and eco-friendly construction techniques. But don't expect to hear the cheers of environmentalists. The stadium holds more than 30,000 spectators, who can get more than a little rowdy cheering for local soccer and rugby teams.