Columnless in Chicago

by Daniel A. Cuoco, (F.ASCE), Thornton-Thomasetti Engineers, 641 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10011,
Udom Hungspruke, Thornton-Thomasetti Engineers, 641 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10011,
Robert P. DeScenza, TT-CBM Engineers, 5 North Wabash Avenue, Chicago, IL 60602,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1994, Vol. 64, Issue 11, Pg. 42-45

Document Type: Feature article


The United Center in Chicago is now home to the Bulls basketball team and the Blackhawks hockey team. The arena features luxury suites, a column-free interior and unobstructed views. An innovative long-span roof, similar to the one topping the Anaheim Arena in California, is integral to the design and was engineered by the same firm. By using structural steel, designers and constructors created a roof that is aesthetically pleasing as well as cost-effective. The United Center features a two-way, multipost tied-arch-roof system that spans the arena seating bowl. This structural steel system produced a significant cost savings (approximately $1 million, compared to a conventional one-way truss system) and proved readily constructable. The main framing elements are six intersecting tied-arch trusses, i.e., four queen-post tied-arch trusses spanning in the short direction and two multipost tied-arch trusses spanning in the long direction. Vertical compression struts are located at eight intersection points of the tied-arch trusses. Tension tie members traverse the arena, tying the ends of the arch trusses and connecting to the bottom of the compression struts. Although the structure appears light and elegant, the effective structural depth of the system is 60 ft. This article also focuses on some of the seismic, snow and thermal loading requirements governing the designs of both the United Center and the Anaheim Arena.

Subject Headings: Trusses | Arches | Structural systems | Thermal loads | Struts | Structural steel | Steel structures | Chicago | Illinois | United States

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