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Essay: The Roman Colosseum and The Westpac Stadium compared

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In this modern world, the Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre (Fig 1a), is still considered an amazing historical structure, because of its advanced technology and architecture from almost 2000 years ago. A cylindrical, freestanding amphitheatre structure from the ancient world, the first ever of its kind to host (mostly violent) sporting events of the day, of which many aspects of its design have been taken by the modern world and still used today. One example of a modern day ‘copy’ is Wellington’s Westpac Stadium, coined ‘The Cake Tin’ by many (Fig 1b), due to its ‘tin’ or silver-coloured exterior skin and its cylindrical shape. This waterfront stadium, whose main, naming-rights, sponsor of $10m is Westpac Bank (Fig 1c), was the world’s first purpose-built modern cricket and rugby stadium. It can accommodate both domestic and international cricket, rugby and soccer matches, as well as concerts and other entertainment events.

Fig 1a Fig 1b

Emperor Vespasian, built the Colosseum around 2000 years ago, in an attempt to win favour back to the Favian family and please the people of Rome, then a powerful city of 1 million people, after enduring the callous rule of the infamous dictator, Emperor Nero, who bankrupt Rome by increasing taxes. It was completed by Vespasian’s son and successor, Titus, who opened it to the public to enjoy at no cost to enter. It took 11 years to build till its premature opening and, although no one knows how much it cost, Vespasian had use of a limitless, very cheap workforce, as 100,000 as prisoners were brought back from the Jewish Wars. So by the use of unskilled labourers, bricklayers and carvers, it was opened in AD 80, yet incomplete without its proposed 4th floor. Domitian later remodelled it.

‘Every work of toil yields to Caesar’s amphitheatre; fame shall tell of one work for all’ Martial (80A.D.) wrote epigrams in praise of Domitian (and Titus), On the Spectacles (I)

The Westpac Stadium planning arose from a need for New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington, to have a modern sports stadium that was fit for purpose and seated more people than the existing stadium in a less central part of the City. It was opened in 2000 and took 1¼ year to build at a cost of $130 million. The owner and operator, Wellington Regional Stadium Trust, then spent another $29 million on a redevelopment project in 2012, so both structures undertook a later renovation. However, the Westpac Stadium is definitely not free to enter, as management, upkeep, performers and teams all need to be paid.

Fig 1c

Both structures were built to satisfy a common mounting requirement to house entertainment for the masses of the city in which they were built. Millennia apart, they shared this common initial need, and also share many other common architectural and design concepts. Even though the values and perception of entertainment were clearly quite different between then and now – violence and gruesome acts then versus our current fair-play team sports and music-based entertainment, both initiators wanted something special for the people of the city for which is was intended, a place to gather crowds for fun and entertainment.

1. Comparison as Buildings & Main Architecture Features


Fig 2a Fig 2b

Like the Westpac stadium, the Colosseum, built almost entirely of Stone, Brick and concrete, is a giant oval shape with a small oval arena in the centre (See Fig 2a). It is referred to as an amphitheatre, even though it is freestanding and not built into a hillside. The Westpac Stadium is also a freestanding, oval-shaped amphitheatre (meaning round/circular) or stadium (see Fig 2b), but this important similarity that has spanned millennia, is so the audience experience uninterrupted viewing of the entertainment in the arena, from all the way around. The Westpac Stadium’s structural design consists of four main parts: the seating bowl, exterior skin, floating roof and light towers. Ironically, their comparative size is not overly different; where the Westpac Stadium’s footprint is larger, it is not as high:

Colosseum: 188m long, 156m wide and 48m high

Westpac: 235m long, 185m wide and 26m high

Many modern stadiums around the world, none of which are as iconic as the Colosseum, now share this enduring circular shape, as it is the most efficient design to enable this.

‘1. The amphitheater is the arena for spectacles where gladiators fight. … 2. The amphitheater (amphitheatrum) is so called because it is composed of two theaters, for an amphitheater is round, whereas a theater, having a semicircular shape, is half an amphitheater’ Isidore of Seville.

What is interesting is that, although you would imagine a structure as old as the Colosseum to be smaller and more primitive than its modern day counterparts, it in fact was built with 80 entrances and to seat an incredible 55,000, whereas the Westpac Stadium has only 36 entrances and seats 34,500. The Wellington City region, however, does only have a population half that of Rome in 70AD: 514,000 in Wellington versus 1 million in ancient Rome. But many more from the lower North Island can drive or fly to Wellington for events, whereas in 70AD Rome, chariot or walking were the only means of land transport.


The arena size and floor substance of the ancient versus modern structures are quite different. The Colosseum comprised of sand and dirt. The sand was used to give the gladiators grip underneath their feet, and also to soak up the blood from the battles. Grass would have been too impractical, and difficult to maintain with no irrigation in the hot, dry conditions. The central arena was an oval 87m long and 55m wide, so approximately 4800m2 (Fig 3a) and surrounded by a wall 5m high.

The Westpac Stadium’s arena, or bowl size, has an area of 10 times that size, 48 000 m2 (Fig 3b) and is grass (Perennial Ryegrass), this is because grass is much cleaner and the preferred surface for the spectator field sports games which are the main attraction of the stadium and because we don’t need to soak up as nearly as much blood as the Colosseum had to, even though we still do hold semi-violent events (e.g. rugby) during which, blood can be shed! The seating design today is far more efficient, hence why the arena could be so much larger.

Fig 3a Fig 3b


The Romans were a very advanced race when it came to engineering. Being the early inventors or developers of concrete cement, enabled them to construct stone bricks into multiple stories. Today we have far more modern primary building materials such as reinforcing steel, structural steel and, in the case of the Westpac Stadium, pre-cast concrete. The Westpac Stadium is one of the largest pre-cast concrete construction jobs ever undertaken in New Zealand. The Romans had only manpower to build, but they also invented many basic engineering tools to help such as rope pulleys and trolleys. No wonder our building time was a fraction of their total years, with our modern day advances in structural engineering, cranes, construction machinery and powered mechanisms for building.

However, no crane existed that could lift their heavy building materials up to heights of 50m, so they invented an ingenious gigantic crane system, which was operated by large tread wheels. These used a clever block and tackle system with ropes to raise blocks onto platforms at varying levels throughout the construction (see Fig 4a and 4b). We know this because they actually made carvings depicting it, on the walls inside. It was an incredible world-first to build a structure with multiple levels to seat so many. They used 1 million bricks; made from travertine (limestone) and red brick, that were produced in factories or ‘Fabrice’ all over the City, so Rome was the first civilization to understand mass-production.

Fig 4a Fig 4b

During the Westpac stadium construction, ‘the most craned construction job ever undertaken’ by Fletcher Construction (‘WestpacStadium: History’), the use of 18,000 cubic metres (5000 truck loads) of concrete, 2700 tonnes of reinforcing steel, 1590 tonnes of structural steel and 250,000 concrete blocks is what enabled the multiple levels. The total height (arena to roof, not including lights) at 26m, however, is almost half that of the Colosseum.

The light towers are 55m which is just 5m higher than the Colosseum. The modern wall, floor and ceiling materials, insulation, paint, heating/cooling, fittings and fixtures all contribute to a far more comfortable viewing experience, especially for those able to watch from any of the 64 corporate boxes (Fig 4c and 4d).

Fig 4c Fig 4d


The most important architectural feature of how the Colosseum was built to multiple levels, was their arch. A simple but perfect design for bearing heavy loads, the arch is a series of wedge-shaped blocks assembled together in a semi-circular form, supported on top of two pillars on each side. The weight of the building is absorbed by the ‘keystone’ in the centre of the arch then distributed evenly over the entire span of the arch then down into the two side pillars (Fig 5a). This allows the pillars to bear enormous loads and because the space between the pillars is empty, this reduces the weight of the building even further.

Fig 5a Fig 5b

It was semi mass-produced in that the arches were a repeating theme throughout the building (see Fig 5b). On the outer ring, 80 gigantic arches, 7m high, form a giant ring around the base perimeter. These were constructed of heavier materials of stone, for more strength to carry the load of the remaining tiers. Then on top of that, made of lighter brick and concrete, another 80 arches and a third tier making it 240 arches in total.

‘A Symphony of arches’ (National Geographic’s ‘Building Rome’s Colosseum’) that were merely mass produced in a standardisation similar to what Design Managers and main Contractors, Fletcher Construction, ordered in pre-cast concrete wall slabs used to build the Westpac Stadium. They also used 4000 units of lightweight pre-cast concrete, 20% to 30% lighter than ordinary concrete, above the main foundations of the structure to keep weight down.

The 80 entrance arches around the base of the Colosseum were divided to suit the different hierarchy levels from the Senators to poorer spectators with special entrances for the Gladiators or Arena ‘stars’: 76 main stadium entrances and 4 special entrances for the Emperor, magistrates and senators. The arches above were adorned with statues – important figures of the day that were to be revered, carvings representing the construction and decorative artwork (Fig 5c). The Westpac stadium has 36 entrances that can be used by the public but, similarly, special entrances for the sports players or performers.

The main entrance is the most significant as it depicts the Taranaki Mountain and Albatross feathers. The Mountain represents the Taranaki tribe in Wellington and the Maori male and

female figures are Kitiaki (guardians) who look after the people. The anchors represent the hammerhead shark that fight till death (symbolic, unlike the Colosseum’s fighting), and the spirals represent new life. These are all representations to reflect the stadium events, performances, games and inspirations for the audience attending. (Fig 5d)

Fig 5c Fig 5d


The 1.8ha Westpac Stadium was built at the site of a former rail yard, as it was a position central to incoming roads and railway lines and there are very few positions in Wellington with sites flat and spacious enough. However, it is situated close to a major earthquake fault line so the whole site is supported on vibro-compactors to prevent liquefaction in case of an earthquake. Comparatively, the Colosseum was built on a lakebed, as there was nowhere else in Rome that Vespasian could find with enough room.

“Here, where the venerable mass of the far-seen Amphitheatre now rises, were the ponds of Nero.” Martial, On the Spectacles (I) (Trans Pearse 2008).

The engineers redirected the water by means of trenched culverts, which funneled the water to run through to other waterways and out to the sea. Therefore both modern and ancient sites had instability to deal with before construction.

This did not stop either construction plan, 2000 years apart, incorporating underground tunnels, walkways and rooms. The Colosseum had a labyrinth-like hypogeum where the animals and gladiators were prepared for the battles, similar to a changing room or a backstage today (Fig 6a). The Westpac Stadium has two large changing rooms that are used for home-based or visiting sports teams. However, their interiors would be vastly different – one made of basic stone walls and dirt floor, one beautifully styled with painted walls, floor coverings, storage, heating and furniture (Fig 6b).

Fig 6a Fig 6b

The animals, awaiting their barbaric death, were kept in cages in the hypogeum and were transported up into the arena using trapdoors and an elevator system using winches

(Fig 6c).

There were a total of 60 trapdoors and 30 elevators in the Colosseum, with a main entrance into the Arena. Whereas, the Westpac Stadium, apart from changing rooms, dressing rooms and toilet facilities, has just a few underground corridors to enable sporting athletes or music stars to be transported around the stadium out of view of the audience, and then to enter the Arena in the same way, but not for the same type of entertainment!

Fig 6c


With over 50,000 spectators, water was vital for spectators at the Colosseum, especially during the heat of summer in Rome. Toilet facilities and an adequate sewerage system to cope with the gruesome ordeals of animal and human waste from killings were also required. The best Roman Engineers devised state of the art water, sewage and drainage systems throughout the structure. Pipes were installed in the walls during construction, which carried collected rainwater throughout the entire building. It would have also required many toilets (latrines) and evidence suggests there were two very large latrines.

Fig 7a Fig 7b

These latrines and dumping wells would be built over the aqueducts, or man-made streams, so waste could be removed through the water that ran downhill, from a natural source, out to sea. Discovered in the foundations, were four underground tunnels and below them, four big drains (1.3m x 3.8m) made when the foundations were laid. These communal latrines (example Fig 7a and 7b) consisted of a long row of holed seats under which a flow of water circulated, which also collected the animal and human remains, then flowed into one large circular drain which surrounded the amphitheatre, dropping into deep wells at regular intervals. This was incredible engineering for its time, on which our piped systems work today. In contrast to these communal toilets, the Westpac Stadium has in fact oversupplied toilets to that of the required regulation. Installed were 400 toilets for men (Fig 7c) and 350 toilets for women, all in separate cubicles and at many sites throughout the building. The Romans were far less shy, and not as needy of privacy! However, the men’s urinals, shower and changing rooms are communal in the Westpac Stadium (Fig 7d) so similar practices there.

Fig 7c Fig 7d


The Colosseum and the Westpac Stadium both have a single layer of tiered seating almost the entire way around to enabling unobstructured viewing from all angles, and with walkways and entrances to each tiered block for ease of access, thus reducing the amount of congestion. Similar to today, the higher seats, or ‘bleaches’, are generally for those not able to access or pay the higher price for closer, arena-side seats, usually referred to as Platinum, then in descending cost and placement order of Gold (or ‘Platinum uncovered’), Silver and Bronze then Family Zone (see Fig 8a). Ticket cost is directly related to your seating position within the stadium.

Fig 8a

During the height of the Colosseums use, the peasants or poorer citizens would have to climb 138 steps to the higher wooden seats at the top, but at least entry was free. But this revolutionary and efficient seat layout, enabled the 50-55,000 people to exit within a half hour – similar to the emptying of the Westpac with a normal crowd, but longer with its record crowd of 45,000 (AC/DC Concert of 2015). Where the majority of the Colosseum seating was made of concrete barrel vaulting with marble on top, which was numbered with lines inscribed on the marble showing the person limit to each seat. People were however, stacked in very tightly which would have been very uncomfortable (Fig 8b).

Fig 8b Fig 8c

The Westpac Stadium, like many modern stadiums, also has a single tier of many rows of seats. But the main difference is that, being moulded plastic, therefore far more comfortable to sit on than marble slabs, they are retractable which allows people to easily walk through the rows to their designated seat (Fig 8c).

Even though the footprint of both stadiums is within a few tens of metres, because of the inefficient design of the block slabs, the Colosseum’s arena is only a tenth of the size of the Westpac Stadium. It did seat 15,000 more spectators, however, they were packed in tightly as close to one another as possible, whereas the Westpac seating provides individual chair pans.


Unfortunately for Wellington, with its less than desirable climate, the Stadium is not fully covered. The cost of this renovation, estimated in 2014 at $385million, was prohibitive. The current roof has an aerofoil vane on the leading edge that protrudes over 24,000 seats to help hold the roof in place and to calm and help protect from the elements, mainly wind on the arena surface (Fig 2b) but given the nature of the changeable weather, this by no means keeps the rain and wind out, more of a problem, especially for night games, than over-exposure to the sun.

The Colosseum, in contrast, was originally uncovered so during the hot Roman Summers, temperatures would reach as high as 40C, and a hot crowd was an unhappy crowd sometimes resulting in riots. Once again, the Emperor’s Engineers got to work and had to devise a way of shading the audience from the sun. They designed a canvas awning, called a Valerian. Held by ropes suspended from 240 mast poles set in brackets all around the top of the stadium, this remarkable invention took 1000 sailors drafted in from the Roman fleets to erect it (Fig 9a and 9b).

Fig 9a Fig 9b

One fundamental difference between the use of the stadium and its roof, is that Westpac Stadium has, suspended from its roof, four large light towers, each with 70 lamps per tower, 280 total (Fig 9c and 9d). It also has rim lights, totalling 392 lamps, as night games are popular. As advanced as the ancients Romans were, electricity was not invented for another 1800 years, so would’ve use of torches or flames when darkness fell.

Fig 9c Fig 9d

2. Comparison in Entertainment and Entertainers

The Colosseum held a wide range of mainly violent events. The public would gather for spectacles, animal beast fighting and beast hunts (Venations), circus-like acts, tortures, executions (damnati), re-enactments of famous battles, mock battles and Gladiator battles. The Romans would import exotic animals and ‘beasts’ to appease the crowd. Animals used in the Colosseum ranged from wolves and wild boars, to elephants, lions, and leopards. During the height, they also displayed various dramas based on their classical myths. Amazingly, the Colosseum Arena could be filled with water for mock sea battles

(Fig 10a).

‘Augustus first put on a sea-battle,

The waters stirring to the trumpet’s sound.

But our Emperor has wrought greater marvels,

Nymphs see monsters roaring in the sea…

Never has there been such a spectacle, sire,

In Amphitheatre or in Circus

[Martial, The Book of Shows, XXVIII 1-4 9-10]

By huge contrast, even though they can both technically be called ‘entertainment’, Westpac Stadium holds a variety of much tamer, less violent, gory events, like sports games, music concerts with bands and singers, even conferences and exhibitions. Major international competition sports games such as All Blacks rugby, international cricket, soccer, and many other field games now tour there. The largest popular concert held to date, was AC/DC in 2015 where 45,000 people attended. Even though the majority of Westpac’s events are booked for sporting events, it is now widely used for concerts and touring musicians – this is because of the size of the venue to hold the maximum number of spectators. Another maximum capacity concert was for Elton John (Fig 10b).

Fig 10a Fig 10b

The Colosseum’s main attractions were based around violence and battles, with gladiators fighting each other to the death, slaughtering animals, and performing tortures and executions. The Westpac Stadium also tends to have minor violence in its events, the key word being ‘accidental’, not intentional. Sportspeople participating in wrestling or rugby, can accidentally injure themselves, or break bones, but fortunately, no deaths. This main difference between the two eras is fundamental: violence and death were the main entertainment agenda and purpose for the Colosseum, it was intentional to have a gory scene where some unfortunate slave, criminal or Christian or animal would be torn to shreds by wild beasts in front of the eyes of the spectators, who would cheer even louder at this sight.

Today, our laws would never allow these spectacles. Our modern society would hopefully uphold the social standards, morals and sporting etiquette that would oppose anything even remotely like this. Also, our ability to even watch such horrific events take place, would be questionable as we have generally not being brought up with such violent actions against humanity. We as a modern society have come a very long way with our values in regard to human and animal cruelty. Today this would be seen as murder, which is a first-degree crime. The illegal ‘underground’ practices of dog and cock fighting still exist today as a form of gambling, but would result in hefty fines or imprisonment if ever caught. What is more distressing for us in our more environmentally-aware age, is that the Romans thought nothing of importing and brutally killing exotic and what would now be endangered species – all in the name of entertainment for the masses.

‘Combat to the death (De ferali certamine) Combat with wild animals (fera) involved youths confronting beasts after they were released and battling against them, voluntarily courting death, not because they were condemned to do so, but because of their own passion.’  Isidore of Seville Etymologies 18

Both venues had many heroes or celebrities who performed for the crowds. The Colosseum had many famous gladiators that won battles, like Crixus, Commodus, and Sparticus. Theses gladiators were actually slaves but considered superstar celebrities of the time. Westpac stadium has a number of famous people who performed/played at the stadium and are nicknamed the ‘modern gladiators’ E.g. AC/DC, Jonah Lomu, David Bowie, Elton John, not to mention our famous All Blacks rugby team, who are always a huge crowd pleaser. So society has not changed much when it comes to fans of famous people or sports heroes. From then till now, our love of entertainment, to follow and support those famous stars, heroes and legends in our midst, has not changed.

3. Audience Experience

The day arrives for the big event. Across both time eras, the common theme is the spectators. From the VIP’s down to the commoners, everyone has a chance to attend an event at the Colosseum or the Westpac Stadium.


The majority of events in 80AD were free to the general public, as part of Vespasian’s plan to win back the hearts of the people. The Colosseum reserved the most important seat, with its own private underground access, for the Emperor in his luxury Podium, or an exclusive entrance with a few short steps for the important officials, the likes of the Magistrates and Senators in the Maenianum Primum. Three gates were reserved for the Equestrians after which your social status would dictate your seating position. Seated in the next section up were the aristocrats, then soldiers then ordinary citizens. Some of the poorer peasant women, or even slaves, if they were lucky enough to be able to attend, had to climb as many as 138 steps to the top, farthest seats from the action in the arena and the hottest with most exposure to the sun (Fig 10a). So societal values placed women and slaves at the very bottom of social standings, which would not be acceptable in today’s society. There were 5 main sections in total (Fig 10b) numbers for which were carved on the top entrance arches and the ticket issued (tabala) would reference this.

Fig 10a Fig 10b

In contrast, the Westpac Stadium seating entirely depends on what your ticket cost was, or what tickets were still available – popular events now sell out in minutes. The equivalent nowadays to the magistrates and senators seats would be in one of the 64 corporate boxes or event rooms. Those who pay more, or are invited as a VIP to attend, can enjoy the interior comfort, uninterrupted views, best refreshments and amenities.

Just outside the ruins of the Colosseum today, 5 bollards, or crowd-control pillars, still exist, proving an organised system was in place to control the crowds before entry, similar to the Westpac Stadiums entrance booths today. However, we now have security stations set up, post the ticketing booths, to stop any weapons, glass or forbidden substances being brought into to Stadium. Perhaps violence was just a way of life back then, to be enjoyed in front of them as entertainment, so no mind was given to any violent crime that may be committed in the seating blocks?


Westpac is used once a week for a major event and has 16 kitchens spread throughout the event centres and corporate boxes plus one main kitchen to feed the 30,000 other spectators. Whereas the Colosseum only had stalls of hawkers and merchants in the entranceways selling or bartering food, merchandise and souvenirs such as gladiator toys, prostitutes would also loiter. The Westpac stadium also has two merchandise outlets that also sell food, clothing and similar modern-day souvenirs, but not prostitution! Occasionally, the Colosseum would delight the spectators by throwing free food like bread into the audience. The main enjoyment from the experience was food and entertainment, or ‘bread and circus games’:

The most famous comment on the games comes from Juvenal c 100A.D.  “The people which once bestowed imperium, fasces, legions, everything, now foregoes such activities and has but two passionate desires: bread and circus games.”  (X.78-81). (Juvenal The Sixteen Satires, 1974,  Trans Green,  Penguin, Harmondsworth)

This is the same today, people buy tickets to the stadium for the entertainment, but the food and drink are as much a part of the enjoyable experience.


One seated and awaiting the showcase, 2000 years fades into insignificance. Apart from the spectacle on show, which are in stark contrast to one another, the crowds essentially are the same; they still get their food, get their seats, start their cheering and yelling their support for whichever side they are backing, the referees enter the arena, the two opponents or the main act enter too, there is a buzzing atmosphere of excitement:


‘We arrive at the grand Flavian Amphitheatre after hours of walking. We line up by the bollards and collect a tabala for the Maenianum secundum imum, as we pass through the arched doorway. We walk into through the corridor, and there are lines of merchants yelling and trying to get people to buy souvenirs and food. My children were tugging at my arm and asking if they could get a souvenir, taking pity for them after their long walk, I bought them a gladiator doll made of wood for them to share, I also bought a loaf of bread and fruit to snack on during the games. Because we are ordinary citizens we climbed to the upper-middle of the amphitheatre. The children were groaning the whole way up, but it was worth it because we got good seats that were the closest we could get to the Arena. As people started piling in, it got rather claustrophobic as we pushed closer to one another.

Gladiators walked out onto the Arena, armed with their Samnites, Thracians and Retiarius and said the oath: ‘I will endure to be burned, to be bound, to be beaten, and to be killed by the sword.’ Petronius Satyricon 117.  They then did the Missio sign before getting ready to fight. The crowd was set alight with cheering, chanting, and clapping, as the Gladiator Heroes fought each other to the death. My children and I came here to see the famous Gladiator, Priscus, who had originally grown up in our home village, so we cheered for him every time he killed somebody. The crowd would do a ‘thumbs up’ signal that showed their favour to spare a Gladiator, a thumbs down votes that Gladiator should be condemned to their death. Once over, it took around half an hour to fully exit from the seating amidst the excited, but happy crowd.’


‘We arrive at the stadium, and line up to get tickets for entry. We then stand in a queue in front of the Mt Taranaki Entrance way. The security checks on us once we reach the front of the line, and we walk into the Cake Tin. The Stadium is large and a frosty Wellington breeze chills everybody to the bones. Everybody is piling in through the corridors, scrambling around to their seats. Mums are handing food to each of their children, and dads are cracking open a beer. Everybody is dressed in the colours of the team they are supporting, with flags and face paint. We claim our seats and I volunteer to go with dad to order some food before the game starts.

We come back with some tacos and the announcer comes on the speaker, introducing the game and the players, the All Blacks were playing Wales. The game starts and the crowd is buzzing with cheering, yelling, and chanting, as both teams are neck in neck with the score. Half time came and the score was 10-10, we all went and got an ice cream although it wasn’t very easy to eat on the cold Wellington day. The game started up again and Wales dropped back as the All Blacks smashed them to the ground. The crowd went wild with the ending score of 39-10! Well done All Blacks, you pulled through again.’


As one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, The Roman Colosseum has been one of the world’s most important and revolutionary architectural influences in public gathering spaces. Countless modern stadiums worldwide reflect this, with their cylindrical shape and tiered seating plans above an oval playing arena below. Wellington’s ‘Cake Tin’, built almost 2000 years later, has many links to the Colosseum from initial build requirement, design, architecture, engineering, construction, materials used, and amenities.

The amphitheatre was the centre of Rome’s entertainment for 390 years. During this time, it is estimated that more than 400,000 people died inside the Colosseum and around 1,000,000 animals died. The Westpac Stadium has been in use for a mere 18 years, during which time, no intentional deaths have taken place, least of all, any exotic animals. The City’s leaders built both structures, very similar in their basic design aspects, for the benefit of the citizens and for the respective cities prosperity. Both places are linked by the purpose of bringing people together for entertainment as a pastime, but the sources of this entertainment are what have vastly changed as our values in society have changed over two millennia.


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