When this Friday the largest spherical screens in the world were going to be turned on, on the façade and interior of the newly opened Madison Square Garden in Las Vegas (Nevada, USA) the lights were going to be illuminated for the first time with one that few imagine that they carry a Spanish stamp. A concert by the Irish U2 inaugurated at night this iconic building whose main claim is a sphere covered with a led screen of 54,000 square meters (15,000 inside) and 128k resolution that have been devised, calculated and projected from the study of a young architect in Zaragoza, Miguel Fontgivel.
The Sphere of Las Vegas is the new leisure space in the city of casinos, and only its dimensions overwhelm: 112 meters high by 157 wide, with capacity for 18,000 spectators, it is considered the largest spherical building in the world. It has involved an investment of 2,500 million euros, and is seen from afar – both day and night – thanks to its exterior screen that covers the façade like a second skin with more than 50 million LED luminaires that offer images with a level of brightness and resolution that "is 32 times more than that of the best high-definition television".
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Whoever presumes can do it. It is the 42-year-old architect from Zaragoza, Miguel Fontgivel, who has captained the responsible team, a total of 23 professionals, 30 at the height of the project, who have combined computer science, engineering and architecture, even using artificial intelligence to design and calculate the two screens of the building. "A five-year job, more complex in mathematics than in architecture," says Fontgivel. "The whole building," says this architect, "is built to serve these screens because everything else, the structure, the facilities, is subject to them, since they asked us for the most spectacular screen in the world, immersive, with a spherical geometry of 360 degrees, and from here everything is derived. "
And the main person responsible for that complexity is not even 30 years old. Cristina Simón, a 29-year-old architect from Teruel, pregnant with her first child and also a computer engineer project (she is in the third year of the degree), is the author of many of these brainy and complex calculations. He had not yet finished Architecture at the University of Zaragoza when he started working in Fontgivel's studio and she has been, according to him, "the key to the entire exterior façade". A team in feminine and plural that surprised Fontgivel himself because "it is not common to see so many STEM women leading a technological project".
The Zaragoza firm Oboria/Saco, made up mostly of women, is behind the creation of Madison Square Garden in Las Vegas. The team is led by Miguel Fontgivel.Rocío Badiola
"We are more and more women in these disciplines," says Cristina. She, along with Adela Pérez, Beatriz Carnicer and Ana Sabater, young architects and engineers, have been in charge of carrying out this project that has meant for all, according to Cristina, "a giant challenge because of its dimensions and because it has gone far beyond architecture, creating new disciplines that combine programming with calculations and design". It is, summarizes his boss, "a cross-pollination job". The design is of such complexity, says Fontgivel, "that with conventional means it would have been impossible."
Another of its young professionals knows this well. Juan José Martínez, 30, a design engineer, or Manuel Mayorga, an industrial engineer who has been the head of the BIM model (3D computing) on the interior screen. For all of them, this has been their most important work. And they have been responsible for tessellating this spherical geometry, of high mathematical complexity, which had to marry pieces, façade and structure.
But the Fontgivel team is beginning to have experience in these challenges despite its youth. His company, Oboria, was born as a spin-off of Vubari Global, responsible in 2017 for designing the LED screen in the tallest building on the planet, the Burj Khalifa. And from there, this order that they have also made by the hand of another of their firms, SACO, with a subsidiary in Canada and that has been in charge of manufacturing the pieces.
In a studio with views, facing the street that leads to the Basilica del Pilar in Zaragoza, it is furnished by Ikea, the center of operations of Fontgivel. And offers of large projects from different corners of the world are already arriving there that "I can not reveal because of the confidentiality agreements" and that predict exponential growth. Everything shows, he says, "that from a provincial capital you can think globally." He learned it at the Zaragoza Expo (2008) when the team of the then mayor Juan Alberto Belloch signed him to direct the city's pavilion in the exhibition. He was only 25 years old. Today he will not be in Las Vegas at the opening of the sphere because his partner, also a studio worker, is about to give birth to their first child. But they will celebrate, from a distance, with the rhythm of U2, the band that will premiere their screens because it has closed exclusive concerts in this space until December.