MassMotion, The Colosseum and the Beijing National Stadium

MassMotion was recently used by the National Geographic Channel's Time Scanners to pit the Colosseum in Rome against one of the most iconic stadiums of modern times, the Beijing National Stadium, or ‘Bird’s Nest’.

The experiment focussed on both stadiums' ability to evacuate attendees in the quickest time possible, and importing a segment of each arena and populating it with MassMotion agents was the quickest and most accurate way to gather results.

The challenges faced by engineers nowadays are undoubtedly very different to those faced by the Romans; designs have to be structurally optimised, and design decisions are often made on build practicality, as well as safety. Modern stadiums must be adaptable to a wide array of events – sporting events require vastly different setups to exhibitions or music concerts, and the concourses must serve as retail and refreshment spaces, rather than being solely designed for egress.

Modern stadiums are also limited by the physical space available for the structure; in prime city-centre locations, pre-existing buildings and geographical factors limit what engineers can do, and also play a large part in determining accessibility and evacuation measures. Thankfully, MassMotion enables crowd simulation to take place at every stage of design, planning and construction, to work within these strict parameters and produce a structure that fulfils all of its goals.

The results of the Colosseum v. Bird’s Nest experiment were somewhat surprising. Both stadiums saw the crowds leave in a comparable time, with mere seconds to separate them. It’s certainly a testament to Roman engineering that they were able to design a stadium that evacuates as efficiently as one built nearly 2,000 years later.