Arup | ArupSport harness CATIA technology

Software technology benefits Beijing Stadium

Advanced aerospace software is being used to help design the dramatic Beijing Olympic stadium in a virtual 3D world. Design consultant, ArupSport, has applied the software to help solve the stadium’s complex geometric form.

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CATIA and AEC Industry

It is understood this is the first time aerospace software has been applied to such a large and complex building engineering project, thus transferring highly developed digital technology from the aerospace industry to the construction sector.

The software programme being applied to the development of Beijing stadium is called CATIA – a programme well-known in the aerospace and automotive sector for its ability to solve complex geometrical problems in an accurate and user-friendly way. ArupSport used CATIA Generative Shape Design and Knowledgeware to understand and then resolve the geometric constraints of the structure and architecture. The technology has since been adopted by the whole design consortium* to provide accurate information to the supply chain.

CATIA possesses some of the most sophisticated problem solving and productivity-enhancing software techniques in the manufacturing industry. One of the most useful of these is parametric and associative design. This allows for a generic solution to be created, for example, a node or join in the roof complete with drawings. This generic solution can then be automatically deployed for every individual node across the project where it will adapt the generic solution to the local geometry. In addition, if the global geometry changes, the local solution and associated drawings also change. These powerful techniques allow complex and even simple projects to be tackled with greater confidence in the final solutions.

Beijing national stadium CAD model of design

CATIA was the right programme for the design of Beijing because of its ability to transfer complex geometry into accurate construction models – and can be done quicker in CATIA than in traditional software packages. Steve Burrows, Director, ArupSport, says:

Though CATIA is relatively new to Arup we quickly realised just how much it has to contribute to the construction industry. On Beijing it has demonstrated the ability to both speed up the design process and improve the confidence in the solutions we produce in order to reduce risk and potential problems on site. We can also see major benefits in ensuring change is understood and catered for as the building work proceeds.


Gehry Technologies, based in Los Angeles, consulted with and trained the Arup team in the UK and Beijing, demonstrating how CATIA technology could be applied to the benefit of the Beijing scheme. Desktop Engineering, software specialist and UK distributor for CATIA is supplying the software and technical support.

ArupSport is a partner in the Beijing Olympic stadium design consortium consisting of Hertzog and de Meuron architects and the Chinese Architecture and Design Research Group

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