One of Louisville’s largest architectural eyesores recently received a shiny upgrade by Kentucky-based firm EOP Architects and HOK Chicago. The Kentucky International Convention Center (KICC), a 960,000-square-foot facility located downtown in the heart of the state’s largest city, reopened to the public this month after a two-year, $207 million renovation. Thanks to a vision supported by the state, city, and the community, the glass-enclosed structure looks nothing like its dark, concrete-clad former self. The Brutalist building, long-despised by Louisville natives, now features a new transparent face along its western facade and includes improved public circulation spaces representing the structure’s new “extroverted personality,” according to HOK. The KICC has undergone several renovations since opening in 1977, but none of them were this dramatic. The architects collaborated with convention center specialist Donald Grinberg, FAIA, on the transformative design, updating its main entrance on Fourth Street and building a canopy with a colored lighting display to create a more welcoming experience for visitors. The glass panel exterior appears to undulate as the light shines on it throughout the day. Hovering over the sidewalk outside the property line, the upper-level floors provide sweeping views that are unattainable anywhere else in the building. EOP Architects’ design partner and co-founder Rick Ekhoff explained that the flowing transparent curtain wall is a nod to Louisville’s history as a river city, and the new canopy symbolizes its extensive park system and the many local landscapes designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. “We designed KICC to connect with the culture, people, and spirit of Louisville,” he said. “By incorporating the visual analogies to these images and making them a part of the story behind the design—even in an abstract way—it connected with the community from the very beginning.” Vertical oak wood paneling is a central design feature found throughout the bright interior and references the local bourbon distilleries that populate the Bluegrass State. The material starkly separates the “pre-function” gathering spaces—new areas for people to congregate before events—from the 40,000-square-foot ballroom and the 200,125 square feet of exhibit spaces. The redesign also included the addition of a 175-seat conference theater as well as new hybrid morning and evening restaurant called Oak & Brew. Peter Ruggiero, design principal at HOK’s Chicago practice, highlighted the much-improved wayfinding within the newly-renovated structure and the simplified circulation paths that open up the interiors to the outdoor spaces. “This structure was what I called an urban introvert,” he said. “It didn’t engage the city and was very inwardly focused. It spoke to the nature of how convention centers were built in big cities forty years ago. There were big pieces of the interior program that needed to be flexible and adapt to differently sized shows, exhibits, and venues, but we believed there was no reason why the circulation and gathering spaces needed to be part of this internalized world.” The architects decided to place those spaces outside the larger, main venues and expose them to the light afforded by the new clear facade. They also integrated a central stair, configured in the spirit of a grand staircase, according to Ruggiero, that doubles as a meeting point with bleacher-like seating for alternative, informal events. Uniquely-shaped skylights create puddles of light and interesting shadows throughout the circulation spaces. At night, the building becomes a lantern in the city and illuminates the downtown streetscape. According to Ekhoff, the new design has already impacted development in the area. He sees the city’s tourism increasing now that the center looks like an inviting place to visit and invest in. “If the city had a living room," Eckhoff said, "KICC would be it."
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Fentress Architects will design the United States of America’s pavilion at World Expo 2020 in Dubai. The winning design is based on the theme “What Moves You,” and will emphasize, “the power and diversity of culture, technological innovation in mobility, and commercial opportunity throughout the United States,” according to a statement from Pavilion USA 2020. Fentress’s design will play into the “dynamism of American culture,” and national values of “ingenuity, progress, and innovation.” The renderings from Fentress are yet to be released. “Working across the U.S. has given Fentress Architects diverse perspective on the attributes and attitudes that Americans share. We will coalesce these characteristics into a single architectural expression at World Expo 2020 Dubai, representing the entirety of the U.S. and its design prowess to an international audience,” said Curtis Fentress, principal in charge of design at Colorado-based Fentress Architects. The Fentress-designed pavilion will work with large and small firms from across the U.S., local citizens' groups from different states, and the U.S. and U.A.E. governments to tell a story about the U.S.’s role on the global stage. The exhibit and experience design will be curated by Michigan-based George P. Johnson Experience Marketing (GPJ). Dubai Expo will be held between October 20, 2020, and April 10, 2021, near Dubai emirate’s western border with Abu Dhabi emirate. American firm HOK is responsible for its master plan. The U.A.E. selected the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” and the sub-themes Sustainability, Mobility, and Opportunity. It is expected to draw over 25 million visitors to the city and be a major economic event. The Bureau International des Expositions is the organizing body behind the shows, which are held intermittently around the world, most recently in Milan in 2015 and Shanghai in 2010. Previous expositions have been occasions for spectacular, sometimes experimental architecture, as in Buckminster Fuller's dome for Expo 1967 Montreal and Kenzo Tange's pavilion for Expo 1970 Osaka. The shows have historically been venues for industries of various nations to showcase their abilities and visions. Expo 2020 is the first world expo held in the Middle East, North Africa or South Asia. The preparation and operation of the fair are expected to result in 277,000 new jobs in the U.A.E. and inject $40 billion into the local economy. Check out this link for more details.
This story originally appeared in our June 2018 issue. Read the first part of our Saudi Arabia feature here. With so many large-scale projects going up and wholly new urban areas in development, it can be hard to keep track of the myriad established architecture offices working across Saudi Arabia. Here is a quick guide to some of the biggest, tallest, and most cutting-edge projects in the works across the country. King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture Snøhetta Opening 2018 Snøhetta’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture is the by-product of a design competition led by the Saudi Aramco Oil Company, which wanted a new knowledge incubator for Saudi Arabia to symbolize the nation’s aspirations for a diversified economy. The one-million-square-foot complex will feature a 930-seat Grand Hall as well as a cinema, library, exhibition hall, museum, and archive, among other offerings. The desert-bound structure is designed to resemble a series of stacked pebbles clad in parallel bands of metal piping. Inside, these give way to graphic, linear patterns that reveal a delicate metal structure underneath. Meanwhile, the Grand Hall's ceiling is wrapped in perforated copper panels. Jeddah Tower (formerly Kingdom Tower)| Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture; Calthorpe Associates Opening 2020 When completed, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill’s 3,280-foot Jeddah Tower will stand as the tallest building on Earth. The organically shaped pinnacle will be the focal point of the Kingdom City development (population: 210,000), a forthcoming $20 billion economic area master planned by Berkeley, California–based Calthorpe Associates for Saudi Arabia’s west coast. The tapered skyscraper is structured to mimic desert vegetation and is built with petal-shaped apartment blocks at its base. It will also contain a hotel, commercial spaces, and a variety of observation platforms above. King Abdullah University of Science & Technology BuroHappold; HOK Completed 2009 In 2009, St. Louis, Missouri–based HOK designed and built an 8,900-acre campus for the King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia, in just over 30 months. The 940-student university contains some of the most advanced scientific lab equipment in the world and features 5.5 million square feet spread across 27 buildings, including two million square feet of laboratories. The labs are arrayed across four 500,000-square-foot structures designed to be “flexible building shells” with universal floor plates that can accommodate different lab setups. The structures are wrapped in horizontal metal louvers to control for glare while the campus library is faced with translucent stone cladding that casts light from within at night. Haramain High-Speed Railway Stations Foster + Partners; BuroHappold Opening 2018 Foster + Partners and BuroHappold are working on a series of transformative high-speed rail (HSR) stations across the country as the Saudi government pushes to boost regional connectivity with a new 280-mile-long HSR line with stops in Medina, Mecca, Jeddah, and the King Abdullah Financial District. Designs for the stations are meant to seed new urban areas in each locale by fusing cavernous, 85-foot-tall arched interior spaces with strategically-placed solid facades to limit solar gain, overhead bridges to create covered outdoor spaces around the stations, and direct connections to the country’s most bustling cities. The line is expected to open sometime this year and will carry 135 million passengers per year by 2042. King Abdullah Financial District Henning Larsen; SOM Opening 2020 Danish architecture firm Henning Larsen has master planned a new business district on the northern edge of Riyadh, where 59 high-rise towers are now in the works. The firm took inspiration from the city’s historic center when calibrating the positioning of each of those towers, generating a taut, tall cluster of angled and closely set monoliths. The arrangement is designed to minimize solar penetration into the city, resulting in ambient temperatures—the designers hope—up to ten degrees cooler than surrounding areas. The massive, nearly complete development area has been in the works for years and features contributions from SOM, CallisonRTKL, Gensler, Foster + Partners, and many others. King Abdullah Petroleum Studies & Research Center Zaha Hadid Architects Opening 2018 Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) recently completed the 750,000-square-foot KAPSARC (King Abdullah Petroleum Studies & Research Center) complex, a nonprofit research institution focused on “policies that contribute to the most effective use of energy to provide social well-being across the globe.” The honeycomb-shaped complex is designed to optimize solar and wind orientation and is made up of five buildings clustered around a series of interlocking courtyards topped by metal canopies. The complex, which opened earlier this year, was one of the final projects Hadid oversaw. Among other features, it includes a 300-seat auditorium, a library with 100,000 volumes in its archive, and an inspirational prayer area called a Musalla.
This story originally appeared in our June 2018 issue and will be followed by a list of the largest projects currently underway in Saudi Arabia. When work on the Kingdom Tower by architects Adrian Smith Gordon Gill (ASGG) is completed in 2020 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, its elevators will bring visitors up to the building’s highest residential floors 114 stories up in roughly 52 seconds, where views will stretch out over the Red Sea and beyond. The trip, dizzying as it might sound, is symbolic of the speed at which Saudi Arabia is embracing new globalized perspectives as it seeks to pivot away from oil and toward a diverse, sustainable economy via its Saudi Vision 2030 plan, an initiative that seeks to crystallize this transformation. United States Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross recently touted the efforts at an economic summit, saying, “We're standing with [the Saudis] as they're about to transform both their society and their economy. This new move I think could be even more dramatic and more far-reaching for the whole geopolitical sector than was the original hydrocarbon." He means it could be more transformative than oil. The nation has been undergoing change for some time now, as it embarks on the early stages of fulfilling the dream of its recently-deceased monarch—King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud passed away in 2015—who sought to re-open Saudi Arabia to the rest of the world after a period of relative isolation. Abdullah’s initial plans involved developing several economic development zones that function outside of domestic norms and laws. These new areas aim to make the Kingdom a node for global finance between the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, seek to spur innovation at home with investments in universities, and look to boost appeal among tourists and pilgrims to its many religious and cultural sites. The effort has continued under the new king—Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud—and the heir apparent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who are enacting further reforms under the mantle of their Saudi Vision 2030 program. Vision 2030 The many changes are due to necessity more than anything else—over 70 percent of the Saudi population is less than 30 years old—while job and housing prospects for this group are anemic under the existing models. To boot, over 200,000 Saudis are currently earning professional and academic degrees abroad and will eventually join ascendant Saudi millennials in demanding steady, well-paying jobs (and relaxed social mores) that the oil economy simply will not be able to provide. The National Transformation Program, part of Vision 2030, calls for creating more than 450,000 new jobs for Saudis by 2020, increasing the private sector’s contribution to the national GDP, and boosting housing production and incentivizing housing affordability across the country. New cities and neighborhoods will be developed to meet this need, with Saudi authorities expecting to spend more than $78 billion on Vision 2030 initiatives between 2016 and 2020 alone. The new cities, infrastructure, and urban monuments that result will embody the manifold economic reforms the state wishes to embrace as it moves forward. Vision 2030 seeks to add no fewer than five new megacities and many smaller developments to the country over the next decade or so. These large and multifaceted developments, generally speaking, will be designed to have regionally specific industrial focuses like global finance, agribusiness, and religious tourism, and will be connected via new transportation investments like high-speed rail on the west coast and an upgraded central airport in the capital city of Riyadh and the country’s second largest city, Jeddah. The result, should it come to pass, will be one of massive change embodied by glimmering, faceted towers, cul-de-sac-bound streets, and tightly packed townhouses. As new reforms take off, and earlier experiments come online, questions on the nature of the coming changes abound. Is the sacrifice of historic and natural sites in the name of progress worthwhile? Will the reforms stave off social unrest in the future? New Cities A recently announced plan calls for the creation of a new multinational economic area called NEOM, a 10,230-square-mile purpose-built city (nearly 34 times larger in area than New York City) planned on the edge of the Red Sea. The megacity, focused on energy, water, biotechnology, and food production, is expected to cost $500 billion and will be jointly developed with Egypt, Jordan, and Israel, all of which share borders or Red Sea access with the development. Although an official master plan for the region has not been unveiled, a design document prepared for the area calls for “opulent buildings with modern and traditional Moroccan-style architecture." Like other forthcoming economic zones, NEOM will be designed with judicial and governing bodies that exist outside traditional Saudi governmental structures, a bid to leapfrog over incremental reforms and develop globalization-friendly areas that are attractive to young Saudis, international investors, and tourists. At least four other economic zones were planned prior to MBS’s tenure, including the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD), a 17.2-million-square-foot development master planned by Danish architects Henning Larsen on the northern edge of Riyadh. After lengthy delays, the leaf-shaped business district will be complete later this year. According to Henning Larsen, the district is planned in tightly grouped clusters of high-rise office and residential towers that are organized to mitigate solar heat gain. The faceted towers connect via networks of elevated skyways and will frame lively pedestrian zones along lower levels inspired by the region’s seasonal wadi riparian landscapes. Here, pedestrians will find shelter from the crippling heat while infrastructural elements capture and recycle runoff and rainwater. Overhead trams will provide further shade while the buildings’ varied geometries deflect direct sunlight. The firm studied the site’s solar and wind patterns intensely in order to generate a development envelope and site plan for KAFD that work together to bring down ambient temperatures by as much as ten degrees. KAFD will be connected to the rest of the city by a new metro system—one of many ground-up transit systems being built across the country—that will include six transit lines with 85 stations and 110 miles of track. The system is being developed by Bechtel, Siemens, Alstom, and Samsung, while station design is being undertaken by international architecture offices, including Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) and Snøhetta. At the center of the citadel will be HOK’s Central Market Authority Tower. Developed with Saudi architects Omrania, the 76-story office building will feature triangulated exterior walls wrapped in an outward layer of horizontal fins and perforated metal panels. The highly articulated building will be joined by 58 other skyscrapers designed by various international firms, including SOM, CallisonRTKL, Gensler, Foster + Partners, and others. Describing the project, Roger Soto, senior vice president at HOK, said, “We carefully designed the building to be a part of [its] place.” Another new economic zone is the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) outside of Jeddah on the Red Sea coast. The 65-square-mile development is master planned by a consortium led by SOM and BuroHappold and is billed as “a new world city for Saudi Arabia” that will take the country “far beyond the oil-based economy,” according to Fahd Al-Rasheed, managing director and CEO of KAEC. The new megacity will ultimately house two million residents and is located near the major cities of Mecca, Medina, and Jeddah. Carved into successive coastal, industrial, port, and business zones, the district will include the aforementioned Jeddah Tower by ASGG, which is currently under construction in the city’s “financial island,” a central business district. The nearby King Abdullah University of Science & Technology, also by HOK, opened in 2009 as the kingdom’s first co-ed university. The two nodes will sit at the nexus of the Haramain HSR line connecting Medina in the north with KAEC, Jeddah, and Mecca to the south. The rail line will feature stations designed by Foster + Partners and BuroHappold that are meant to act as large-scale welcome portals to each city. Each station is unique to its locale, but all present cavernous, 85-foot-tall arched interior volumes with intricate structural detailing. The stations, designed to strategically avoid direct solar glare and filled with wide-ranging functions, will also create accessible pedestrian zones at each stop, allowing travelers to seamlessly arrive into town car-free. When the 280-mile-long HSR line opens sometime this year, it will effectively create a contiguous urban spine along Saudi Arabia’s west coast with economic, educational, civic, and religious nodes. Two other economic cities are in the works, including the Knowledge Economic City (KEC) outside of Medina that will focus on intellectual property, knowledge-based industries, and medical, hospitality, tourism, and multimedia endeavors. The development is planned by AECOM as a residential hub and will offer housing for 150,000 Saudis across four distinct neighborhoods populated by apartment blocks, townhouses, and detached homes. The city will aim to provide roughly 20,000 jobs and is planned to contain large shopping and commercial areas. KEC is currently under development and is expected to be finished in 2025—five years later than originally anticipated. Smaller satellite cities across the country, anchored by cultural, academic, or economic institutions—like ZHA's King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) in Riyadh—are also in development. The energy- and technology-focused think tank headquarters and cultural center is envisaged as a cluster of courtyard pods. The building is joined nearby by the KAPSARC Community, a new 200-home sustainable neighborhood by HOK. The 500-acre development features umbrella-shaded community spaces, a spiritual district, and neat rows of geometric, off-white villas. HOK is also at work on a similar arts-focused community located beside Snøhetta’s King Abdulaziz Centre for World Culture (KACWC) in Dhahran. Snøhetta’s pebble-shaped cultural center contains an auditorium, a cinema, a library, and a museum, among other services, all spread out across a stack of bulbous, metal-tube-wrapped volumes. In creating a complementary residential component to KACWC, design principal Roger Schwabacher and his team at HOK aimed to “create a place to celebrate traditional Saudi craft that also doubles as a next-generation incubator space” for Saudi creatives, Schwabacher said. Too Much Too Fast? In the city of Mecca, however, development is moving too quickly for some. Mecca is the Holiest City in Islam and hosts over 2.4 million pilgrims during the 2017 Hajj and Umrah annual pilgrimages. Efforts are underway to expand that number to north of 17 million pilgrims in coming decades, a prospect that has resulted in many renovations and large new public and private works. Recent hotel expansions, in particular, have led to the loss of much of the historic fabric surrounding the Great Mosque at the center of the city. In 2013, for example, the house of Muhammad's first wife, Khadījah bint Khuwaylid, was torn down and replaced with a new public bathroom facility intended to handle the increased visitors. The loss, one of several high-profile demolitions in recent years, angered many and brought into question the lengths Saudi officials are taking to solidify tourism as an economic force in the country. Other high-profile improvements include the addition of wheelchair-accessible viewing ramps to the Great Mosque, as well as a forthcoming expansion of the Great Mosque’s worship spaces that will double capacity to 1.2 million worshipers. All of these changes can now be seen from the city’s tallest spire, the Abraj Al Bait tower, by German architecture firm SL Rasch GmbH. The 1,972-foot-tall Big Ben–like structure is rooted in a cluster of midrise hotel and shopping mall towers and was completed in 2011, ushering in a wave of high-rise development directly beside the Great Mosque. The massive clock-tower-topped complex is now joined by the multiphase Jabal al Kaaba hotel, an even more tightly packed cluster of mixed-use towers containing a total of 8,500 hotel rooms. The projects will soon be joined by additional developments by Foster + Partners, HOK, and other international offices. The Foster + Partners project, for example, will bring a crystalline bundle of hotel and apartment towers conceived under a philosophy of “luxury with humility,” marketing speak meant to attract wealthy pilgrims to the new high-end residences. Once completed in a few years, the project will function as a gateway to the new multimodal King Abdul Aziz Road, a 2.27-mile-long spine of development connecting central Mecca with the country’s transportation network. The road will contain a 200-foot-wide promenade and will be surrounded by 100,000 residential units and 28,000 hotel rooms. Regardless of the reception, however, one thing is clear: In Saudi Arabia, the future is almost here, and it looks very, very big.
The rise of autonomous vehicles (AVs) is inevitable and—depending on who you ask—they’ll either eliminate car crashes and save the environment, or muscle out pedestrians from the street, steal our personal data, and create biblical levels of gridlock in our cities. But despite the divide over how the technology should be implemented, the common thread that runs between apostles and bashers alike is the belief that cities, planners, and architects are woefully unprepared for the changes self-driving cars will bring. In November 2017, the AIA held an event centered on the topic, "Anticipating the Driverless City,” and the furor seems justified following the death of a pedestrian at the grille of an autonomous Uber car. “Planners think in 30-year increments, and autonomous vehicles are already hitting the streets today,” Nico Larco, co-director of the Sustainable Cities Initiative at the University of Oregon, said. “Urban planners should be terrified.” Larco’s not wrong. Only a few states even have regulations for driverless cars, let alone ideas for designing a future without parking. With Ford launching self-delivering pizzas in Miami, Google’s Waymo rolling out an autonomous ridesharing service in Arizona, and driverless taxis making inroads in cities all over the world, architects and planners will either need to look ahead or be stuck in triage mode. Sam Schwartz, former New York City Traffic Commissioner from 1982 to 1986 and founder of his eponymous traffic and transportation planning and engineering firm, has categorized the potential futures as “the good, the bad, and the ugly.” The “good” A utopic self-driving car scenario would have driverless cars constantly circulating and on the prowl for riders, while providing “first mile, last mile” access to and from souped-up mass-transit corridors. If AVs truly take off and replace a sizable portion of manned cars on the street, then parking lots, garages, and driveways—not to mention thousands of square feet of on-street parking per block—would sit vacant. Walking, cycling, and autonomous (electric) buses would feature heavily in a multi-modal transit mix, and streets would narrow as bioswales and strips of public parks replaced parking spots. There has been movement on designing for that future; FXCollaborative, HOK, Arup, KPF, and other prominent firms have all put forward scalable designs for reclaiming the urban fabric. Speculation has already forced public officials in Pittsburgh to put together plans for integrating self-driving cars into the city’s fabric by 2030, and developers in New York are building flexible parking garages that can easily be converted for other uses. However, the key to actually enacting any of these schemes lies in large-scale government intervention. Without a concerted top-down reclamation and conversion of unused streets, AV-centric zoning policies, or renewed investment in mass-transportation options, cities will never be able to integrate AVs into their infrastructure. The largest hurdle to achieving the “good” future isn’t technological, it’s political; even self-driving evangelists have conceded that a laissez-faire approach might result in increased traffic on the road. The “bad” Uber, Lyft, Google, and a raft of competitors are already jostling to bring self-driving taxis to market so that these companies won’t have to pay human drivers. Under the guise of preventing traffic fatalities—there were nearly 40,000 lives lost in the U.S. alone in 2017—the big players are lobbying all levels of government to allow their AVs on the street. If vehicle miles traveled per person in AVs were allowed to increase without intervention, society could slide into an ugly scenario. This dystopic outcome would see mass transit hollowed out by a lack of funding and pedestrians shunted out of the streets in the name of safety. Studies have already shown that existing ridesharing services increase congestion and cause bus services to deteriorate, and if commuters get fed up with slow commutes and turn to ridesharing services, mass transit options could be sent into death spirals due to decreased revenue. Driverless cars are often touted as being spatially efficient, especially as they can join each other to form road trains—tightly packed groups of vehicles moving along optimized routes. But considering how much space on the road 40 bicycles or 40 commuters in a bus would take up, the flaw in that thinking becomes self-evident. Even if artificial intelligence can route traffic more effectively than a human, putting more cars on the road offsets the gains in speed by decreasing the amount of space available. Although computers might be great at coordinating with each other, the external human element will remain a wild card no matter what. Well-planned cities that prioritize walkability and ground-level experience would place pedestrians over passengers, but a worst-case scenario could see cyclists and walkers forced to wear locator beacons so that AVs could “see” them better, while hemmed in behind fencing. The “ugly” The worst driverless car scenarios take Le Corbusier’s famous claim that “the city built for speed is the city built for success” to heart. The high-speed arterial thoroughfares Corbusier envisioned in The Radiant City were realized in the destructive city planning policies of the 1950s and '60s, but municipalities have spent heavily to correct their mistakes 50 years later. Much in the same way that widening roads actually worsens traffic, if planners and architects ignore or give deference to driverless cars and continue to prioritize car culture in their decisions, congestion, gridlock, and withered public transit systems are sure to follow. The adoption of self-driving technology will likely birth new building typologies with unique needs, from centralized hubs where the cars park themselves to AV repair shops. As futurist Jeff Tumlin, principal and director of strategy at Nelson/Nygaard, points out, self-driving cars aren’t a new concept. Their lineage can be directly traced to ideas introduced by GE at the 1939 World’s Fair, but this is the first time that the technology has caught up with the vision. Planners and politicians have had 80 years to grapple with solutions; they can’t afford to take any longer.
Nashville, Tennessee, received an early Christmas present last year, in the form of a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion club. Nashville was one of 12 cities with ownership groups vying for four possible expansion clubs, and on December 20, MLS made the announcement that the music city would be the first to be awarded a new team. Though the official announcement happened in late December, Nashville has been working toward a new team for well over a year. This includes plans for a completely new stadium. Early designs for the 27,500-seat stadium surfaced mid-2017, with plans to position the pitch in the Fairgrounds, home to the Tennessee State Fair, located in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood. While details about the stadium are still being worked out, HOK will lead the design, adding it to the long list of stadiums the international firm has worked on in recent years. The road to a new professional soccer team and the subsequent stadium has been a long one for Nashville. The 12 other cities attempting to secure an expansion team included Detroit, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and St. Louis, just to name a few in the region. While the bid has garnered popular support from the city and state, not everyone was pleased with the proposed placement of the stadium. In late 2017, before Nashville had been awarded the expansion position, a local lawyer filed a lawsuit against Metro Nashville. The suit alleged that the city had violated its charter by proposing a stadium at the Fairgrounds, a park which is designated for the annual state fair and other public events. Just days before the official MLS announcement, a court sided with the defense and dismissed the case, helping pave the way for the team’s new home. While the stadium is expected to cost around $250 million, an additional $40 million will be spent updating the Fairgrounds, which are in need of numerous infrastructural improvements. A tentative timeline has construction beginning by the end of 2018, with the team’s first season starting in 2020. During construction, the grounds will remain partially open in order to continue hosting fairs, public markets, and events. Since 2004, 14 teams have joined the MLS. Nashville will be the 24th team in the league, which hopes to be up to 28 teams in the near future. For this round of expansion, Nashville set itself apart by pointing out that it had played host to a number of well-attended international matches in recent years. Though the club has not announced official colors, a logo, or even a name, the city council will soon be reviewing the stadium plans for approval. With the already-expressed support from the mayor, that process is expected to go well. Who knows? It may be only a matter of time before the sound of soccer chants, accompanied by steel guitars and fiddles, spill out of honky-tonks across the city.
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When the Georgia Dome opened in 1992, its Teflon-coated fiberglass fabric roof was considered a modern marvel, stretching more than 395,000 square feet and weighing just 68 pounds. Atlanta's domed stadium hosted an impressive roster of sporting events in its 25 years of use, including three NCAA Men's Final Fours, two decades of SEC championships, two Super Bowls, two NBA seasons and an Olympics. Today, its new sibling, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, offers perhaps more impressive engineering accomplishments and promises to draw impressive sporting events to the city. Completed in August 2017, the multi-purpose venue is officially the first LEED Platinum-certified professional sports stadium in the United States. Among other industry-leading features, Mercedes-Benz Stadium is notable for its kinetic roof structure. While other stadiums with retractable roofs must allocate additional land for the entire roof assembly to open horizontally off the stadium, Mercedes-Benz Stadium offers an innovative space-saving solution by breaking down the geometry of the roof into eight triangular petals which retract in a radial fashion. The petals are composed of three layers of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) membrane fabricated into air-inflated “pillows” involving more than 143,000 square feet of membrane. The lightweight material was selected for its durability and translucency. Each petal cantilevers approximately 200 feet inwards towards the center of the stadium on 16 secondary trusses which spring from four 720-feet-long primary steel trusses. This primary steel frame spans to concrete “mega-columns.” Nested within the steel framing of the oculus is the world’s largest media wall, an immersive six-foot-tall, 360-degree HD display covering over 63,000 square feet. Unrolled, the video board would stretch three football fields long. HOK worked with an integrated team of engineers from the start, coordinating information with a robust digital toolset that included digital modeling software. Custom algorithms and parametric modeling tools integrated the stadium’s complex geometrical layout with tens of thousands of pieces of information about the roof structure and its behavior and movement during various load scenarios. The project ultimately generated over 18,000 sheets of steel shop drawings, and during peak fabrication involved 32 factories in the U.S. and Canada making and delivering steel pieces simultaneously. The facade of the project is composed of insulated metal panels and a transparent ETFE facade, which has been marketed as a “window to the city” offering seamless visual connection to the surrounding context. ETFE in the wall assembly was fritted in a range of coverage from 20 percent to 70 percent in response to solar orientation. The composition of the angular wing-like wall panels abstractly reference the stadium’s National Football League team, the Atlanta Falcons. Beyond the Falcons, the stadium flexibly hosts Major League Soccer franchise, and is expandable for major events that the Georgia Dome used to host–Super Bowls, NCAA Final Four Basketball tournaments, FIFA World Cup matches, and major concerts and performances. To accomodate geometric differences between a soccer pitch and football field, lower level seats are retractable and an automated curtain system attached to the roof structure comes down to bring soccer fans close to the pitch. Several impressive planning decisions beyond the facade contributed to the stadium's LEED Platinum certification. Design elements of the building envelope which contributed to the stadium’s LEED Platinum certification include integrated rooftop solar panels, improved daylighting from use of ETFE, and passive cooling benefits from the retractable roof. Gus Drosos, technical principal of HOK's Kansas City office, said the consistency of the attachments of the ETFE system throughout the project and detailing of complex corners were specific successes of the building envelope design that offered valuable insight into working with ETFE and might carry over into future ETFE projects.Additional insight into the design and construction of Mercedes Benz Stadium will be offered at the upcoming Facades+ Atlanta, where a panel of architects from HOK, EcoWorks Studio, and tvsdesign will deliver presentations in a session titled, "Designing MBS: Secrets of the Mercedes Benz Stadium." For more information on the Facades+ conference series, along with registration information, visit Facades+.
After news broke last month that the Oakland A’s had finally settled on a site for their new ballpark at Oakland’s Peralta Community College District, their plans have been derailed after the school decided to cancel negotiations with the team. With plans for the stadium, previously to have been designed by Sasaki, Snøhetta, Studio T-Square, and HOK, now potentially derailed, it also remains to be seen if the A’s will remain in Oakland. Sasaki, Snøhetta, and Oakland-based Studio T-Square would have led master planning and urban design efforts, alongside building out a community engagement process. HOK and Snøhetta were to collaborate on the design of the new ballpark, and to make sure that it wouldn’t remain an “insular” experience. So-called “stadium districts” are becoming fairly common around the country, as team owners and designers have been seeking to jumpstart investment around areas that already experience a high amount of foot traffic. Though no renderings had been released, construction was expected to have finished by 2023. While the Peralta Community College site was chosen after a years-long search by the A’s, nothing had been finalized by their decision to put the new stadium there. Besides needing to finalize land negotiations with Peralta, the team had been facing ardent pushback from Chinatown locals worried about gentrification, from the Audubon society over the impact that development would have on bird migration patterns at the nearby Lake Merritt, and from politicians raising other concerns from their constituents. Compounding the problems the A’s were facing, much of the 15-acre site has been contaminated with an unknown amount of gasoline and other toxic substances and would have needed costly remediation. Although business leaders in Oakland had rallied in support of the investments the new stadium would generate, Peralta’s board of trustees chose to discontinue conversations with the A’s on Tuesday. “We are shocked by Peralta’s decision to not move forward,” the A’s said in a statement released this morning. “All we wanted to do was enter into a conversation about how to make this work for all of Oakland, Laney, and the Peralta Community College District. We are disappointed that we will not have that opportunity.” The A’s had already pledged to pay for development out of their own pockets, but this promise was dependent on revenue projections from a new ballpark, not the redevelopment of their existing Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. As the only remaining professional sports team in Oakland, the pressure was on for the A’s to choose a site in the city, but with their top pick off the table, the Athletics could be enticed to leave. As A’s President Dave Kaval recently told the San Francisco Chronicle, there was no “plan B” if Peralta didn’t work out.
HOK’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, just became the first LEED Platinum–certified professional sports stadium in the world. The $1.5 billion project opened in August and is best known for its operable, aperture-shaped roof, but HOK and Buro Happold Engineering have also integrated a suite of sustainability features into the base design of the stadium. Replacing the now-defunct Georgia Dome as the home of the Atlanta Falcons, the 2-million-square-foot, 71,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Stadium is styled after the Roman Pantheon, as the entire arena is centered around a domed oculus. Because the building is multi-use—designed for holding football, soccer, and basketball games—and because Falcons owner Arthur Blank had wanted to build what he described as an “iconic stadium” with a retractable roof, a watertight aperture was designed for the roof. Comprising eight 200-foot-long, 450-ton blades clad in Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene (EFTE) film, the roof’s semi-transparent iris is capable of opening and closing in only nine minutes. Because every petal needs to swing into place at a different speed, not rotate like a true aperture, the roof uses an algorithm to judge how much counter-balance is needed while the blades are cantilevering out over the field. Reinforcing the centralized focus of the design is a 350-ton, six-story, ring-shaped “Halo Board” seated inside the oculus itself that’s viewable from every seat and angle. Outside, the stadium’s base is a wall-to-ceiling glass curtain wall meant to give uninterrupted views of the surrounding city as fans make their way to their seats. Eight steel and glass “leaves” radiate out from the aperture at the top of the stadium and drape down over the glass at the bottom, referencing the swooping wings in the Falcons’ logo. According to HOK, Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s LEED score of 88 points is the highest of any sports venue. Through the use of its 4,000 photovoltaic panels, the stadium produces enough solar electricity to power nine football games, or 13 soccer games. By using water-conserving fixtures and infrastructure adjustments, the building uses up to 47 percent less water than a building of comparable size. The location was also key, as the stadium is located between three MARTA bus lines and next to a forthcoming 13-acre green space that fans can use between games. The site also features electrical vehicle charging stations, bike parking, and new pedestrian paths. An incredibly complex project that required coordination between architects and structural engineers at every step of the way, the stadium still isn’t fully operational even though it’s in use. Work on the roof is still ongoing, and engineers hope to have the aperture fully functional by the time Atlanta hosts the Final Four basketball tournament in 2020. The stadium's innovative high performance facade will also be discussed more in-depth at Facade Plus's Atlanta conference in January 2018.
The Oakland Athletics have finally settled on a site for their new ballpark, and have hired Sasaki, Snøhetta, Studio T-Square, and HOK to not only design the stadium, but to also better integrate it into the surrounding urban fabric. Ending years of contentious debate over where to build, the A’s have chosen the lakeside Peralta Community College District in downtown Oakland, California. Sasaki, Snøhetta, and Oakland-based Studio T-Square will lead master planning, urban design efforts, and build a community engagement process. HOK and Snøhetta will collaborate on the design of the new ballpark and how it interacts with the master plan. No images have been released as of yet, but the team and design firms involved are hoping that the new stadium will catalyze investment along Lake Merritt without alienating the community. “Our goal is to create the best ballpark experience for our fans, players, and community. It is critical for our ballpark to truly integrate into the fabric of Oakland,” said Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval, in a press release. Craig Dykers, founding partner at Snøhetta, also stressed that the project wouldn’t be an insular experience. “With its new home closer to downtown Oakland, the project will re-invigorate the relationship between the A’s and the city as a new kind of ballpark that acts as a center for sport, wellness and culture,” he said. Even with the promised outreach, community groups have been opposed to the plan owing to fears of displacement, gentrification, and potential environmental damage to the sensitive estuaries nearby. Another potential wrench in the plan is the presence of hazardous materials in the soil that would need to be remediated. An unknown amount of gasoline and other toxic substances have seeped into the ground and water at the site over the years, and no one knows how much the clean up will cost. Still, the new stadium will be a step up for the Athletics, set to become the only major league sports team in Oakland after the Raiders leave in 2019. The A's current Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum is a 51-year-old concrete eyesore that the team currently shares with the Raiders, and that regularly floods with sewage when the plumbing backs up. The team claims that the new stadium will be privately funded and put up to $3.05 billion into the local economy, and that construction should finish in 2023.
Three years ago, the Howard Hughes Corporation (HHC) bought Las Vegas’s Triple A baseball team, the 51s, with the plan of relocating the team from its outdated facility north of downtown Las Vegas to a new state-of-the-art facility in Summerlin, the company’s massive master-planned community of more than 100,000 people at the western edge of the Las Vegas Valley. Last week HHC unveiled the preliminary design of Las Vegas Ballpark, its new 10,000-capacity ballpark, designed by the San Francisco office of HOK. It is the latest sign that sports are becoming increasingly important both to Las Vegas’ ambition of becoming a “real city” as well as a driver of a new generation of more urban development. This season also marks the debut of Las Vegas’ NHL franchise, the Golden Knights, playing out of a new arena on the Las Vegas Strip (itself part of a large pedestrian-oriented plaza space on the Strip). The NFL’s Oakland Raiders, meanwhile, will relocate to Sin City in a brand new stadium starting in 2020. The new baseball park will form the centerpiece of a 400-acre tract called “Downtown Summerlin.” The ballpark will join an existing 1,000-room hotel casino, a large outdoor shopping center that opened in 2014, and a practice rink for the Golden Knights which opened last month. Over the next 10 to 15 years, Hughes expects to fill in the rest of the site with new office buildings, small parks and up to 4,000 urban dwelling units — none of which will be single-family detached homes. The design, which is still being finalized, will leverage the park's connection to the desert – the ballpark is a short drive from the color-drenched mountains of the Red Rock National Conservation Area.“There’s something about a project in the desert that’s a little bit different than a project in other places,” said Anton Foss, Managing Principal of HOK's San Francisco office. The base will be comprised of stucco and earthy burnished blocks. "We’re emphasizing the materiality of the ground — pieces of the project being of the earth," said Foss. The other design cue was the legacy of Howard Hughes himself. The aviator and industrialist originally bought up the 25,000-acre parcel that became Summerlin in the 1950s. Development of the land as a master-planned community didn’t begin until the late '80s. Foss said early plans actually considered trying to incorporate a Hughes museum on site, complete with his legendary Spruce Goose flying boat aircraft. The idea was abandoned, but it got Foss and his colleagues thinking about Hughes’ aviation legacy. Inspired by aircraft, the upper section is composed of exposed structural steel, glass and metal panels. The roof, Foss promised, “will touch the sky lightly like an aircraft wing.” A few Vegas touches are planned for the ballpark, including an outfield pool and an outfield concourse lined with games like ping pong tables and corn hole. Las Vegas usually hosts a few Cactus League games during Spring Training, so the new stadium will feature amenities like a clubhouse and a weight room that are designed to impress major league players. But the watchword here is more about grace than glitz. The design will eliminate complex vertical circulation like ramps — despite an 18-foot west to-east downward slope, the entire park can be accessed by one 360-degree, sloping circulation system. The ballpark, estimated to cost $150 million, is scheduled to break ground early next year and open for the 2019 season. As for the 51s' current home, Cashman Field, plans for next year include hosting a new minor league soccer franchise which will play alongside the baseball team until the 51s move. Beyond that, there are more question marks. The city is kicking around a variety of ideas, ranging from a sports complex (if the minor league soccer team draws interest, it could lead to a Major League Soccer franchise in a few years) to a new campus for tech giant Amazon, which has invited cities to bid for the chance to host their new headquarters. The Cashman ballpark dates back to 1983 and is one of the oldest Triple A fields in the country. It is part of a larger complex called Cashman Center, which includes a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall. Just north of downtown Las Vegas, but cut off by an elevated freeway, the Cashman site is adjacent to a popular outdoor neon museum and a public library. The ongoing redevelopment of downtown Las Vegas has yet to cross over the freeway. For Tom Warden, Senior Vice President with the Howard Hughes Corporation, the future of both Downtown Summerlin and Downtown Las Vegas are bright. For him, the 400-acre Downtown Summerlin site is a dream opportunity to implement New Urbanist policies devoted to walkable, pedestrian-scaled environments on an unprecedented scale. “To be able to build that way tabula rasa is an exciting thing for planners,” he said.