Tennis Centre Magic Box: Highly flexible thanks to its steel structure

The multi-purpose Tennis Centre in Madrid, designed by French architect Dominique Perrault, consists of several buildings and outdoor sports areas in Manzanares Park.  The main building, dubbed 'Caja Mágica' (Magic Box) for its flexibility of use, contains three tennis courts, each one with adjustable stainless steel roof panels. The steel structure was mainly supplied by ArcelorMittal and contributes to the building’s flexibility.

Detailed information

With a view to the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games, the candidate city Madrid initiated the construction of several spectacular facilities. The Tennis Centre, designed by Dominique Perrault and aimed at reinforcing the city's candidacy, opened its doors in May 2009.

The sports complex

Designed on a plot of 16.5 hectares of abandoned land situated between the motorway and the train tracks, the Olympic Tennis Centre, with an area of 100 000 m2, comprises three indoor/outdoor tennis courts for 20 000 spectators (12 000, 5000, and 3000 spectators each), 16 outdoor tennis courts, five indoor courts with a capacity of 350 spectators each, six training courts, and an indoor pool in addition to the headquarters of the Madrid Tennis Federation, a tennis school, a tennis club, a press centre, private areas, and restaurants.

The steel, aluminum, concrete, and glass buildings are arranged around a large artificial lake. A system of bridges and walkways entice people to take a stroll and there are many routes to be taken, offering new and spectacular views and connecting the Magic Box with the district of San Fermin and Manzanares Park, the work of Ricardo Bofill.

The design of the Magic Box is based on two uses. At water level (level -2), there are areas reserved for players, facilities for training, and receptions areas for players, VIPs, and press, as well as technical facilities. Eight meters above at street level (level 0), there is an area for spectators containing all the facilities for services offered to them on match days or during other events. The three tennis courts can be adapted to the different uses of the sports complex.

The Olympic Tennis Centre of Madrid is the only facility in the world that can allow three simultaneous matches to take place, indoor or outdoor. This fact allows for the organisation of other types of events, aside from premier sporting events such as concerts, political rallies, fashion shows, etc.

The sports centre is located in a large park, an area for the public used day and night both during competitions and at other times. The district has a parking area for 3200 vehicles and is connected to the city by a network of cycling paths and by underground train, with a station just a 5-minute walk from the stadium.

The architecture of the Magic Box changes the face of the city of Madrid, asserting itself as a symbol of strength, a new landmark, and a new gateway.

Tailor-made: adjustable roofs & mesh cladding

Mounted on large hydraulic jacks, the three retractable roof panels allow three different configurations: fully open, partially open, or closed.

Together, the three roof panels can be set to 27 different positions: The roof of the main court, which measures 102 m by 70 m and weighs 1200 tonnes, can be partially opened in a vertical position and soars to a height of 20 m.  In a horizontal position, it can be opened by sliding along its entire width. The other two, measuring 60 m by 40 m, can be partially opened in a vertical position, up to the point of forming a 25 degree angle. They can also slide horizontally, leaving the stadium completely open to the sky. The Magic Box, which opens, partially opens, and closes depending on the uses of the sports complex, creates an ever-changing and living silhouette on the landscape.

Dominque Perrault developed a completely new kind of metallic mesh especially for the envelope of this project. This outer shell changes with the time of day, at times filtering, reflecting, or opaque.  It shimmers in daylight, letting the light in. At night the light shines from within, showing signs of bustling activity. The mesh panels of the Magic Box are 25 m high and 7.2 m wide, setting a manufacturing record for a building of this size.

Steel in the Magic Box

A total of 4450 tn of steel were used to build the Magic Box, 1305 tonnes of which were supplied by ArcelorMittal: 445 tn of S460 plates and 869 tn of S355 profiles.

Structure:  HEA 600, HEB 600, and HEM 600 profiles in S 355 and S 460
Facade:  stainless steel stretched mesh
Interior finishings:  galvanised steel for handrails and false ceilings, stainless steel floors

Sustainability features

- High energy efficiency
In comparison with other facilities of its kind, the Magic Box presents energy savings of 20% owing to the retractable roof panels and the permeable facade which allows for the penetration of natural light and ventilation. Heating and cooling is carried out solely through a system of 'interior attemperation' consisting of air diffusers set at 20 degrees situated under the spectators' seats in order to create a comfortable environment.

- Use of renewable energy
300 m2 of solar panels with 290 kilowatts of power are used to cover the hot water supply for the entire complex, including indoor tennis (11 courts), the clubhouse, gym and spa, restaurant, and administrative area.

- Urban development of the district of Usera
Construction of the sports complex, outdoor facilities, and the large park has transformed the area from a downtrodden urban area to a green neighbourhood.  A significant part of this was the recovery of the ecosystem along the banks of the Manzanares River over the course of the project.

More information

  • 3 indoor/outdoor tennis courts for 20 000 spectators - the Magic Box (12 000, 5000, and 3000 spectators respectively)
  • 16 outdoor courts
  • 5 indoor courts with a capacity of 350 spectators each
  • 6 practice courts
  • an indoor pool
  • the Madrid headquarters of the Spanish Tennis Federation
  • a tennis school
  • a clubhouse
  • a press centre
  • VIP areas
  • restaurants
  • parking for 3200 vehicles

Project information

  • Madrid
  • Spain
  • Architect:
    Dominique Perrault Architecte - Project Manager Spain: Juan Fernández Andrino
  • April 2006- May 2009
  • Client:
    Madrid Espacios y Congresos
  • Engineering Firm:
    Perrault Projets
    TYPSA, Madrid structure & installations
  • Contractor:
    FCC Construcción
  • Photographer:
    Perrault Projets/Adagp
  • Text:
    DPA Spain