A fresh take on the Colosseum

To explore the possibilities of wood, Metsä Wood is planning how famous architectural designs could be constructed out of wood.

Based on feedback from customers and partners, the Colosseum in Rome was chosen as the first Plan B case. Watch the video below to see what kind of approach a seasoned architect would take.


Admired over centuries by millions of visitors from around the world, the writer Charles Dickens called the Colosseum "the most impressive, the most stately, the most solemn, grand, majestic mournful sight conceivable." Likewise, author Mark Twain wrote: ”More vividly than all the written histories, the Coliseum tells the story of Rome's grandeur and Rome's decay.”

Built of concrete and stone, the Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre in the world and is considered one of the greatest works of architecture and engineering. It was constructed over a period of 8 years beginning in 72 AD.

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Antti Laiho accepted the challenge to design a wooden Colosseum 

Antti Laiho accepted the challenge

Architect Antti Laiho from Helin & Co. Architects was commissioned to plan a modern version of the original, using wood. The size and basic structure would be the same as in the original.

At 190 metres by 158 metres, the Colosseum is a huge building – especially when you consider when it was built. So we can say that it’s 2 to 3 times the size of an average sports arena. The original Colosseum had space for 50,000 people.

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Brilliantly updated – in wood

The original stone columns are 1,5 metres thick. Metsä Wood’s Kerto® LVL material was chosen for the beams and columns. The LVL (laminated veneer lumber) beams are actually just 1/3 of the originals. Thanks to their many tightly glued 3 mm veneer layers, Kerto® provides load-bearing strength – even for designs from antiquity.

That’s one reason why the wooden Colosseum would have over 12 % more space than the original – and it would be possible to take into account modern needs such as plumbing – something the original didn’t have. Other systems, including heating, ventilation and air conditioning, could likewise be easily integrated due to the extra space freed-up by using wood – and because wood structures can be easily modified. Overall, the new Colosseum design has 2 underground floors for parking and storage constructed of concrete, and 5 above-ground wood.


Kerto LVL’s load bearing capacity is such that there could have been fewer columns – if more liberties had been taken with the original design. The long spans are longer than in the original, and could have been even longer if needed – up to 25 metres.


From a fire safety point of view, the wooden structure would actually also be safer than steel, as wood chars at a speed of 0.7 mm/min and doesn’t collapse at once after the designated fire resistance time is reached – as steel may.

Kerto is a structural LVL and fulfils the requirements of EN 14374. It has also undergone rigorous testing and its safety level in case of fire can be designed to meet requirements of Eurocode 5.


To provide the comfort a modern audience is used to, Laiho decided to add a steel-framed roof – designed using the same basic structure as a bicycle wheel. The roof is supported both by the elevator shafts as well as the Kerto® beams and also the elevator shaft structures.

This roof structure is designed so that both its compression and tension parts don’t stress the building frame excessively as would a normal compression roof. For example, the selected shape does not push the supporting elevators shafts outward.


One likes to think that the Caesars would have been pleased.


The technical design phase

See how R&D engineer Jussi Björman continues the work Antti Laiho started.