The new $366 million retractable roof at Melbourne’s Margaret Court Arena (MCA) completely closes in under five minutes and is ready to protect players and spectators during the 2015 Australian Tennis Open.

Designed by Australia’s NH Architecture in association with Populous, the retractable roof is the fastest to close in Australia and comprises a series of vibrant “Copper Penny” Colourbond Metallic steel gable roofs, detailed with a Lysaght Klip-Lok 700 profile.

The roof is part of the latest redevelopment phase at Melbourne and Olympic Parks which also includes a revamped MCA seating bowl for 7,500 spectators, new air conditioning and acoustic technologies and concourse connectivity to the adjacent Rod Laver Arena.

While the roof isn’t the only part of the redevelopment it has certainly attracted the most attention, with reviews of the design coming in mixed and from international sources. America’s Sports Illustrated Magazine for one said the design had “grandeur” and was “fashionable”, while Joe Rollo from Australia’s Fairfax Media says the MCA design is a missed chance at greatness.

Populous Senior Principal Richard Breslin says the roof’s colour and profile reflected some traditional elements of Melbourne architecture but also endeavoured to carve out a presence of individuality for the MCA.

“The “copper penny” colour of the metal roof has been deliberately designed to complement the existing architecture, particularly big brother next door, Rod Laver Arena, but also to express Margaret Court Arena’s own individuality,” he said in a statement.

“The colour and shape of the roof reflects some of the traditional elements of Melbourne architecture, particularly the sandstone, zinc and copper of buildings along the Yarra River.”

He also said the pleated profile reduces its structural depth and importantly reduces the visual bulk of the building.

“The pleated nature of the roof also provides the flexibility to fold down to pedestrian level to provide weather protection, particularly at venue entrances.”

“Large roof overhangs on all sides of the building provide shade to the surrounding concourse and public realm, offering a respite for patrons facing the hot summer sun which is often a part of the Australian Open.”

The roof, designed with guidance from Aurecon and Walter P Moore engineers, is a unique system which sees only two downturned operable trusses, spanning the width of the MCA (on each end), supporting the bulk of the operable roof.

Each truss is connected to a 57m x 32m operable lateral panel which is joined to seven adjacent gable roofs sections that make up the bulk of the MCA roof. The whole structure is driven by drive bogies and has a tiny straight-line dimension of 1.25 m between the top of the operable roof panel and the top of the fixed roof.

While the primary function of the redeveloped Margaret Court Arena will be to stage major matches of the Australian Tennis Open, the multi-purpose venue will also host netball, basketball, major concerts and entertainment events.

Images: Major Projects Victoria