London is offering a new attraction in time for the start of the Olympic Games: a walkway over the O2-Dome.

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The dome structure known as the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, London, with its distinctive 12 masts is now spanned by a 350 metre long walkway. Daring climbers can use it to gain access to a viewing platform at the pinnacle of dome where a unique panorama view over the Thames and the London skyline is on offer.

The "O2 Roofwalk" gave the planners and designers many challenges to deal with. In contrast to the famous "Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb", the O2-Dome cannot be directly accessed. The only solution was a separate walkway.

The project was drafted and calculated by architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners together with the Happold engineers office. They then commissioned the specialists for fabric covered construction, Base Structures, to implement the project. One particular challenge for all those involved was the exceedingly tight schedule because the attraction needed to be ready in time for the start of the Olympic Games.

Mehler Texnologies was awarded the assignment of supplying membrane that could meet the extremely high demands on the walkway material in the long-term. The engineers and technicians brought the know-how from their extensive product portfolio, such as architecture and boat materials, together in one building project. They developed material prototypes, which were checked for all the necessary material properties in extensive series of tests.

A PVC coated polyester fabric for architectural applications was created with the carrier fabric based on a newly developed weave technology. The surface finish, which needed to display a high slide resistance and an exceptional anti-slip character, was particularly significant. The finish, which is usually used for the bases of dinghies, was strong enough for the heavy surface weight and the material thickness as well as for the final coating. This special coat application slows down the wear caused by it being walked on over a long time.

his technical fabric was used to manufacture the walkway with an area of 1,175 square metres. Another feature was the safety nets stretched over the sides and underneath the walkway, which are made from the newly developed VALMEX® TF 400 mesh fabric from Mehler Texnologies. This material displays an excellent resistance to weather and an extremely strong mechanical durability – important properties for the engineers and safety officers. In order to ensure that the walkway can be walked on safely (the steepest gradient is 30 degrees), a test piece of the walkway was built in the original size and volunteer climbers tested it for safe accessibility. The nastiest "English weather" was simulated with rain from hosepipes.

The walkway consists of 75 pieces. These were pre-manufactured and brought into position with the help of a specially made carriage system. It was assembled with a cable construction while "levitated" because the roof of the dome cannot take a load.

"Up at The O2" was completed on 23. May 2012. Now there is nothing standing in the way of an adventurous yet safe climbing experience. With special "climbing suits" and harnesses connected with the platform by a guide cable and the central handrail, anyone who dares can get their personal kick.


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