Utica Memorial Auditorium in New York. Right photo courtesy Jamie Callari.



The innovative structural design of 3,815-seat multi-purpose arena solved a number of challenging design problems and became a model for many later buildings.

The First of its Kind in 1960

Built on a tight sight with poor soil conditions, the auditorium needed an extremely light roof system. Lev Zetlin, founder of the firm that became Thornton Tomasetti, designed the first “double-bicycle wheel” cable-suspended roof.

Two layers of pre-tensioned cables span between an outer compression ring and a central tension ring. Top and bottom layers are tensioned to different frequencies and separated by compression struts to create a slightly domed roofline. This configuration eliminates flutter and facilitates roof drainage, while the space between layers accommodates lighting and mechanical equipment. The 250-foot clear span also provided a column-free interior with unobstructed views. Because the entire roof could be prefabricated and erected in just a few days, it cost less to build than a conventional roof.

This system was subsequently used in many structures, including Madison Square Garden. It also serves as the basis for modern “cable dome” systems. In 2011, the American Society of Civil Engineers named the Utica Memorial Auditorium as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.

Using New Technology to Preserve the Legacy

In 2013, we returned to the Utica Memorial Auditorium. We used our portable 3D laser scanner to create a detailed record of the 54-year-old structure’s condition. We analyzed the structure to discover how the roof interacts with the façade.

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