A puzzle of SUNLITE panels at VTB Arena, Moscow

Posted in Construction & Architecture
A puzzle of SUNLITE panels at VTB Arena, Moscow
By Tamir Horesh

Thousands of colorful multiwall polycarbonate pieces create a cladding masterpiece.

The $1.5 billion multi-purpose VTB Arena in Moscow includes a shopping and entertainment center, office space, residential sections, a 5-star hotel, and 1,600 parking spaces, but the complex’s main attractions are its sports venues.

The polycarbonate glazed megastructure consists of a 15,000 seat indoor ice hockey arena that can be transformed to a EuroLeague premium basketball court, and of a 27,000 seat Champions League level football stadium.

Completed in 2018, the unorthodox complex that was designed by David Manica of MANICA Architecture, is covered around its external circumference with 20mm multiwall polycarbonate sheets, creating an image reminiscent of the famous Faberge Eggs. The inner ring of the open sky football stadium roof is covered with clear, solid flat polycarbonate sheets.

The complex regularly holds premium sporting events, concerts and figure skating shows.

Taking the task of cladding VTB arena brought some interesting production, logistics and engineering challenges.

The designers requested to clad the entire facade of the Moscow VTB complex with 20,000m² (215,000ft²) of SUNLITE 20mm multiwall polycarbonate sheets in seven different colors, cut into triangles.

 Challenge 1 – meticulous color matching

It’s not easy transferring a specific color from an opaque paper used for architectural renderings to a light transmitting sheet of polycarbonate. The challenge becomes even greater when the requested colors are so close to each other. Moreover, the colors have to look great during the day, as well as at night, when the façade is backlit.

Palram’s technologists carried out trials both in the lab and on the production line until the result met the expectations of the designer, six shades of blue, in addition to white. Such color matching requires special care during production, since any small deviation from one shade of blue will make it nearly identical to the next shade.

Palram’s projects support center suggested using a matte finish for the polycarbonate, in order to reduce glare towards the surrounding park and streets. To verify this point, the architects requested a mockup installed directly on the stadium façade. The mockup, set up on a cold but sunny January day, proved that indeed the matte finish provides much better results than glossy sheets.

Challenge 2 –  How many triangles in a parallelogram?

From the initial drawings, we at Palram knew that we had to cut our sheets into triangles, which would be glazed in aluminum frames and installed over the arena’s metal construction. What we later found out is that the façade is made up of 11,000 triangles differing in shape and size. Now imagine cutting 11,000 different triangles, in seven colors, without creating a big mess. Palram actually developed special software that planned the cutting scheme and labelled each triangle, so that the installers on site would know exactly where to place it. It was like creating a very big jigsaw puzzle, with easy to understand instructions.


Construction engineers and logistics teams deal with new challenges day-by-day. Vision, engagement, creativity, hard work, being prepared with backup plans, and going the extra mile are a part of what makes the world’s most inspiring construction projects possible.