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Spacing Out

CLIENT: Saitama Prefecture

ARCHITECT: Nikken Sekkei, Tokyo; Ellerbe Becket, Kansas City, Mo.

BUILDING TYPE: Multi-use sports arena

It figures that space-constrained Japan would be the site for an unusually versatile "super arena" that can snugly accommodate a basketball game drawing 5,000 fans, then be quickly expanded into a football stadium seating 30,000. At the heart of the 500,000-square-foot "smart" arena in Saitama, a suburb north of Tokyo, is a moveable block of 9,200 seats, plus lavatories, concessions, and walkways. The seats can be shifted 230 feet in just 20 minutes, expanding or contracting the arena as needed. Throughout the stadium are also clusters of retractable seats, giving the place the flexibility to host everything from trade shows to rock concerts to a visit from the U.S. basketball "Dream Team" en route to the Sydney Olympics.

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