An array of fins will now ensconce FC Cincinnati'ssoccer field, to be called the West End Stadium, after a total redesign from stadia specialists Populous that replaces the ETFE pillow facade previously proposed for the project.
A total of 513 fins—a total of 5.4 miles—will be used to wrap stadium's facade, angled incrementally to create an undulating wave formation on the exterior (513 also happens to be Cincinnati's telephone code number). Each fin will be approximately two-to-three inches wide and 18 inches deep, situated in a way to provide a view into the stadium when viewed head-on and a more solid appearance when viewed down the length of the building’s façade.
As with the previous incarnation of the stadium, which was designed by a team lead by Meis Architects, LED lighting has been proposed. With Populous' design, LEDs will illuminate each fin, allowing the stadium to glow at night for events, and will most likely be blue and orange as per FC Cincinnati's jersey colors. To make this happen, the LED lighting system will be integrated into the leading edge of each vertical element to create ambient light and experiential graphics predominantly along the building’s eastern-facing facade. Lighting operators will have to be careful not to follow in the footsteps of Bayern Munich FC in Germany, where multiple car accidents have been caused by the changing colors of the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Allianz Arena's ETFE facade. FC Cincinnati's west facade, on the other hand, will utilize more glazing in order to balance the relationship to the surrounding neighborhood.
When asked why the team was changing direction in realizing the new stadium, an FC Cincinnati representative provided the following statement:
"Meis’ designs provided a great foundation for us and got us going down a design path that would deliver Cincinnati a truly unique stadium, which was important to us and one of the goals of this project. However, as we reached a critical point in our construction path, we decided to bring in Populous who had far greater resources behind them to ensure the project met ownership’s goals of delivering a state-of-the-art stadium on-time, on-budget and with an iconic look and feel."
"Our goal was to create the jewel of the Queen City’s crown," Jonathan Mallie, a partner at Populous who led the current project's design, told The Architect's Newspaper. "The twisting motion of the vertically expressed fins speaks to the dynamics of the match and the tension between the two teams about to take to the pitch."
Six entrance gates have been proposed for the stadium, though the main staircase will take Orange and Blue fans on a grand precession from Central Parkway, rising 30 feet in the process. "Several MLS teams have unique traditions —FC Cincinnati’s supporters have an incredible march to the match," said Mallie. "Their energy builds as fans approach the stadium. We were captivated by their presence - you hear the noise, you see vibrant orange and blue, you sense their excitement and passion for the team. Our aim... was to funnel the energy of the fan base as it ascends up the plaza staircase and underneath the exterior façade which gently hovers above."
This atmosphere will be brought into and enhanced inside the stadium, too. Space has been allocated for 3,100 safe-standing seats in The Bailey, a designated home fan section that spans the stadium's entire north end. More lessons from Germany: safe standing has proved to be hugely successful, particularly in the case of Borussia Dortmund, where the spectacle of a "yellow wall" can be observed on match days. If you can, go, it's truly exhilarating. FC Cincinnati's decision to integrate safe standing is a progressive move, one that admittedly won't match Dortmund but will go a long way to bolstering the oh-so cherished stadium atmosphere.
Even those sitting down can get in on the action, as the closest seat will be just 15 feet from the playing field, with the furthest being 130 feet away in the upper tier. The total stadium capacity has yet to be finalized but will be around 26,000, with every seat being protected by a canopy roof.
FC Cincinnati was founded in 2016. In a sign of remarkable progress, the West End Stadium is scheduled to open in March 2021, even with the design team switch.
This Sunday, all eyes will be on the pitch of the Parc Olympic Lyonnais (Parc OL) for the final match of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The United States and its yet-to-be-determined competitor will go head to head in the French town of Lyon for the much-anticipated game, and while most will hope to see soccer star Megan Rapinoe back on the field, the impressive stadium architecture will also be back on full display for one last time.Designed by Populous and Paris-based firm Naço Architecturein 2016, the low-lying Parc OL, a.k.a Groupama Stadium, is a 578,000-square-foot arena holding nearly 60,000 seats. Its most distinctive feature—a turtle-shaped shell covered in white fabric—shines in the midday sun and is illuminated from within during nighttime play. The four-story concrete, glass, and steel venue actually boasts the nickname “Stade des Lumières” or Stadium of Lights, due to this. In addition, the undulating canopy was designed to mimic the rolling hills and forests found in Lyon, and its support columns look like tree branches, according to Populous principal Gary Reeves in conversation with Interior Design. Built just ahead of the 2016 European Championships, the $468 million stadium has quickly become one of the top sporting venues in all of France. It was one of nine stadiums selected to be a part of this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, and as the largest venue on the list by far, it was slated to host nine matches total, including last Monday's semifinal and the upcoming final. One of the most compelling reasons so many matches have been scheduled in Lyon is because of the town’s bigtime football history. Several major French professional players have come out of the 500,000-strong city, which sits southeast of the country’s core. Parc OL is also home to the Olympique Lyonnais, the Ligue 1 football club—hence the red- and blue-blocked colors of the bowl. Its women’s team is currently on a 13-year winning streak in the national league, and they’ve won the UEFA Women’s Champion’s League six times since 2011. But World Cup-level soccer isn’t the only pro sport the city excels in. Rugby is also huge, as is volleyball, basketball, and ice hockey. In other words, there are plenty of other large-scale sporting venues scattered throughout the city. While Lyon’s massive sports scene attracts throngs of local and visiting spectators, Parc OL was built outside the heart of the city to the east, away from many other venues. It’s situated next to a commuter highway and is largely surrounded by residential neighborhoods and farmland in the commune of Décines-Charpieu. In order to keep noise from seeping outside the stadium and into the adjacent community during gameplay, Populous designed the space with a large, open bowl that traps the sound of chants going from the north to the south stands. Since Olympique Lyonnais home fans are known to be noisy, the fabric roof also reduces sound reflection. Other carefully-designed attractions inside Parc OL include a series of lounges on the outer edges of the stadium sectioned off with double-height glazing. Food and beverages areas are also located here. The Salon des Lumières, one the arena’s seven larger dining options, was intentionally designed with a very sleek, French style that fuses the club’s identity in a seamless fashion. Creating subtle nods to the brand on the venue’s interior was important, according to Naço Architecture founder Marcelo Joulia. The design team integrated this, and a handful of other fan-centric elements such as 110 executive suits, multiple meeting rooms, banquet halls, and bars to get more people out to the stadium.According to Elizabeth Miglierina, an associate architect in Populous's London office, another driver for interest in the stadium is the fact that the pitch is nearly visible from the podium. She wrote in an interview that the protective roof canopy allows for a more dynamic experience in the communal spaces at Parc OL. The spectator concourses were designed by Miglierina and her team to also allow for varying views of the field and the distant French Alps. Some of those spaces are cathedral-like in feel, with triple-height ceilings and work by global street artists adorning the walls as part of Park OL’s Offside Gallery. The gallery is open even on non-match days. Like the stadium’s public spaces, the green car park that surrounds the structure also doubles as a place for congregation and play when matches aren’t going on. Populous worked with French group AIA Associés on the durable landscape. For real-time aerial views of the venue, watch the final match of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup this Sunday at 11 a.m. EST.
While it is well known that Latin America has long produced some of Major League Baseball’s best players, the sport is rarely associated with those players’ home countries. So, when Mexico City’s Diablos Rojos professional baseball team was looking to build a new stadium, the goal was no less than to construct an icon for as wide a range of fans as possible. To do this, team owner, businessman, and philanthropist, Alfredo Harp Helú, tapped Chicago-based FGP Atelier—headed by Mexico-born Francisco Gonzalez Pulido—to design something that was at once striking as well as culturally and contextually appropriate. Local architect Alonso de Garay of Taller ADG collaborated on the design and stadium experts Populous advised on the project. While FGP and Taller ADG share credit for Diablos Rojos Stadium, FGP is credited with the design of the iconic roof structure that defines the project.
Now near completion, and fully functional for its first baseball season, the stadium sits in an auspicious location in the heart of Mexico City. Located within Magdalena Mixhuca Sports City, home of the 1968 Summer Olympics, the stadium adds to an already busy civic space. Along with seemingly endless soccer fields, the campus also includes the staggering Félix Candela-designed Palacio de Los Deportes arena and a Formula One racetrack, both of which can be viewed from the stadium. Appropriately, when looking out from the stands and over the field, the now inactive Volcán Xaltepec sits on the horizon, adding to the Diablos’s fiery branding.
The project’s big move comes in the form of soaring polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) roof system that dramatically cantilevers over 11,500 seats and a large public forecourt. The effect of the floating roof took on a literal meaning when it was lifted into place as a single piece by one of the world’s largest cranes. Taking the shape reminiscent of a devil’s tail or pitchfork, the roof acts as a unifying element for a series of smaller structures, which hold the stadium’s interior spaces. Along with the large entry sequence, a number of terraces are also tucked up closer to the roof, providing views of the field as well as the surroundings. Despite this grand roof, the experience moving through the stadium is more akin to walking down intimate streets and public plazas than into a large building.
The majority of the public spaces are defined by a series of six truncated pyramids, which allude to Mexico’s indigenous architecture as well as the area’s volcanic geography. Along with a fairly direct reference to the region’s Aztec and Mayan pyramids, the spaces they produce bare similar geometries to the courts of the ballgame Tlachtli, which was played throughout pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Each pyramid is clad in a double skin of precast black volcanic concrete louvers and glass, which glow at night but remain cool and shaded in the bright Mexican sun. Concessions, toilets, circulation, and other amenities are housed in these pyramids, while the space between acts as civic-scaled walkways for the crowds. The tops of the pyramids provide additional gathering spaces connected by flying walkways. The overall effect is of passing through a lithic village before the space opens up to the broad, unobstructed stands and field.
Along with the form, the planning and technology of the project were designed to benefit as much of the area’s public as possible. While the stadium has luxury boxes like any other major league sports venue, numerous more-affordable seating options were built into the design, including 8,500 outfield seats. The area immediately surrounding the stadium can function both as circulation as well as supporting local markets and youth baseball, an amenity for the economically struggling adjacent neighborhood. To address a regional water scarcity issue, a collection and remediation system is integrated into the stadium's roof and plumbing system. Currently, the stadium is water net neutral, with all drinking and operating water being drawn and treated from the stadium’s cistern. Additionally, the massive amounts of scaffolding used to hold the roof in place during construction is currently being looked at as a resource for building temporary structures, such as open-air markets across the city.
Yet, the project hasn't only been smooth sailing. Numerous delays, both avoidable and unavoidable, have meant that the roof membrane is not yet fully installed on the underside of the structure, leading to a few wet spectators and some wind issues. Early plans for a biodigester, to be used on site for power, was thwarted by local garbage politics. And a decision—strongly objected to by the architects—to put a fence around the entire project has taken heavy criticism from local press considering that the stadium is on public land. From the beginning of the project, the stadium’s place in the famed sports city has put it under the microscope of the media and kept the pressure on from local politicians.
Local political intrigue aside, the Diablos Rojos Stadium provides a new iconic home for professional baseball in Mexico while questioning typical athletic venue design. Challenging the enclosed opaque bowl, the village of forms and materials are culturally and contextually appropriate without being overly derivative. As cities around the world strive to build arenas to showcase either their economic or global prowess, Mexico City now has a stadium that is for and about its place and its people.
On July 24, The Architect's Newspaper is bringing Facades+ to Minneapolis for the first time to discuss facade trends within the city and beyond. Panels for the conference will highlight the recently completed Allianz Field stadium, perspectives on curtainwall systems by leading contractors and manufacturers in the region, and the challenges of high-performance design for northern building enclosures. Architectural practice Alliiance, and structural engineering and facade design firm Studio NYL, are co-chairing the conference.
Participants for the conference's symposium include Populous, Mortenson GC, Walter P Moore, Pfeifer-FabriTec, Permasteelisa, Enclos, MG McGrath, Harmon, Morrison Hershfield, Payette, and HGA.
In this interview with The Architect's Newspaper, Alliiance Senior Associate Joe Simma and Studio NYL Facade Design Director Will Babbington, the conference co-chairs, discuss the conference's panels and their respective bodies of work.
The Architect's Newspaper: Both Alliiance and StudioNYL have completed or are involved in significant civic and or stadium-related projects. What do you perceive to be the most exciting material or technological developments within this typology? Is there a particular detail of the first panel, "Stadium Rising: The Complexities of Allianz Field’s Woven PTFE Facade," that you are interested in?Joe Simma: In terms of technological development I think the design process itself for stadia is very exciting in that it has become an early applications ground for the use of computational design techniques. The stadium typology lends itself nicely to generating a rules-based parametric design process for the general elements, including the facade and it’s (relatively) simpler set of demands. That freedom for experimentation in data and performance-driven form-finding is then able to become a useful reference for the design processes for different building types beyond stadia. From a material standpoint, I'm intrigued by fabric membranes and their continued growth towards becoming an accessible material for facade design. In particular, at the Allianz Field project, I'm excited to hear more about the process of achieving the translucent and metallic quality of the material, which has resulted in a such a dynamic effect across different lighting conditions.
Will Babbington: We have worked with a variety of materials in our stadium work. Fabrics such as PTFE and metal meshes are attractive for this building type due to their light weight and potential to be front and back-lit, as well as manipulated geometrically in a variety of compelling manners.
Regardless of materiality, we have had great success—and fun—in our exploration of computational design and digital fabrication methodologies. For the ongoing LA Rams stadium, we worked with Zahner to develop the metal cladding system. Our team was able to optimize the structural performance and detailing of the perforated metal skin by leveraging parametric design tools and fabrication technologies. In the end, the design of a custom perforation pattern was able to be realized by a digital workflow that exported analytical models directly into fabrication files for over 150,000 panels.
AN: Minneapolis is experiencing a period of tremendous growth. A factor in this growth is the concentration of manufacturing and facade management firms. In your opinion, how does this proximity between design practices and manufacturers influence the execution of projects in the area?JS: We are somewhat spoiled by access to world-class glazing, sheet metal, and curtain wall fabricators right in our backyard. In many ways, one of the biggest benefits is easily facilitated collaboration between makers and designers, especially at those early "what if" design stages when fabricator expertise can help give an innovative concept legs. I think one of the biggest areas for untapped collaborative potential is the very unique brain trust that exists in the local region in terms of custom curtain wall engineering. I'm especially looking forward to this panel to see representatives from some of these influential players together in the same room to discuss the current climate and what the future holds for Minneapolis and beyond.
WB: The most dynamic and successful designs attain prominence only by close cooperation and understanding between the design, manufacturing, fabrication, and installation teams. This is true in facade design perhaps more so than in any other subset of the building industry. With the importance of the building enclosure being far from lost on a design community in such a climate, combined with the fact that Minneapolis is a national hub for the production of cutting-edge systems; this design and construction community is exceptionally well-positioned to capitalize on this collaborative potential.
As the desires and needs for high performance, increased quality, and more formally demanding skins continue to evolve; it’s exciting to see what creativity and innovation, whether in the form of panelization, various fabrication technologies, or other, will permeate into local works and how.
AN: Increasing regulation coupled with the growing demand for sustainable design is fueling the proliferation of high-performance enclosure systems. How are Alliiance and StudioNYL addressing this challenge and what lessons can be learned from Minneapolis?JS: To start with, we're trying to set our goals on every project well beyond the minimal baseline of code regulation and treat performance and sustainability as integral components to the design process. Our office is a signatory to the 2030 Commitment which means we're also doing as much measuring as we can so that we can build a living data set to analyze and track trends as we go. The surge in the accessibility of analytical tools is having an impact across the profession, and we're incorporating these tools more frequently and earlier in the process to predict performance and even feedback into the process as a design-driver. Being located in Minneapolis, our frame of reference, of course, is cold climates and all the challenges they bring—so that means we often come to a project with a critical eye towards envelope performance. Marrying these technical demands of thermal performance, durability, and occupant comfort with early design concepts can make for a very rich approach to facade design—an approach that can be a valuable reference outside the region as all buildings become more closely scrutinized for performance.
WB: As a firm, we’ve been pursuing sustainable initiatives in our enclosure, as well as in our structural, projects for years. Fortunately, this has become a prevailing sentiment found in not only my ASHRAE committee work where widespread thermal bridging code provisions are near, but also on the job site where the application of thermal break technologies is no longer viewed as a “specialty item."
As a result, “high performance” is being pushed even higher. Our work with Payette on Amherst College’s new Science Center, a 2019 COTE Top Ten award winner, is one shining example of this; while the recladding of the Social Security Administration’s half-century-old HQ we have underway with Snow Kreilich and HGA in Maryland is another.
One of the most compelling byproducts of such works is how quickly these tenets are reaching the mainstream, where I’ve even witnessed firsthand how net-zero and developer-driven goals can align on a mixed-use project. Another collaboration with Pyatt Studio on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation is seeing 21 net zero, low-income homes being built.
More information regarding Facades+ Minneapolis can be found here.
Humans have been using fabric to create shelter for thousands of years. If a set of groundbreaking researchers and designers have their way, however, applications of textile-based architectural elements have the potential to play an important role in shaping the future of enclosures as well.
Across scales and methods of application, research into the use of textile-based elements in architecture has increased over the last 15 years as professional and university teams in Europe and the United States have embraced robotic weaving applications, custom-designed carbon fiber textiles, and experimental fabric facades. With an eye toward wrapping ever-larger structures, creating unique sensory experiences, and engineering a more sustainable future, new applications of fabrics have the potential to change the face, look, and feel of architecture as we know it.
Fiber Composite DomeInstitute of Building Structures and Structural Design
Universities in Germany are leading the charge, especially at the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) in Stuttgart, where Professor Jan Knippers has developed methods for creating textiles from bendable composite elements, including carbon and glass fibers.
Knippers is currently working on develop- ing the latest iteration of his Elytra pavilion, a Fiber Composite Dome prototype structure that will make its debut at the National Garden Show in Heilbronn, Germany, later this year. The 40-foot-wide dome is made of woven glass carbon fiber elements connected only by steel washers and bolts. To create the pavilion, Knippers has designed a geometric array of 60 resin-impregnated fiber body assemblies that come together to distribute structural loads from the dome elegantly and efficiently. The precision-driven arrangement also extends to the size and organization of each strut’s individual carbon fibers, which are robotically arranged into place, baked in an oven until stiffened, and finally assembled into taut spanning assemblies. When erected into the final spherical shape for the pavilion, a secondary shell made of ETFE polymer is added on top for protection from the elements.
CRC1244 DemonstratorInstitute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design
Building-scale research is also taking place in Germany, where Dr. Walter Haase, managing director of the Collaborative Research Center (CRC1244) at the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK) in Stuttgart is really pushing the envelope.
Fourteen university-based research teams are working there to develop ways to “create more living space with less material” by using fabric-based facade and building elements to drive innovation in overall building design. The group is currently building a 120-foot experimental modular tower that will serve as a testing site for new fabric-based facade and building technologies that could transform the way buildings are designed, fabricated, used, and even recycled.
The elemental steel strut and concrete tower exists to test out new material approaches for each of its square-shaped levels, with a specific focus on folded surface structures, innovative processing of conventional fabrics, geometrically deformable structures, and origami-inspired folding structures that can be used to create lightweight sandwich panels. The tower is designed with flexibility in mind so that fabric-based facades developed by academic and industrial project partners can be tested and switched out as necessary in the coming years.
In terms of real-world applications, fabric-based architectural strategies are coming to lighting as well, especially in the realm of stadium design, where membrane materials like PTFE and other custom fabrics are used to wrap wide and often curvilinear stadium geometries with ease.
The Populous-designed Allianz Field soccer stadium in Minneapolis, for example, features an 88,000-square-foot transparent and laminated custom PTFE fabric facade created in partnership with fabricator Walter P Moore specifically for this project. Stretched over a parametrically designed steel rib substructure, the fabric facade is backlit with 1,700 emotive LED lights that can be programmed to glow for various occasions.
Populous is also behind the Daily’s Place Amphitheater and Flex Field project in Jacksonville, Florida, a unique dual-use space that blends a performance amphitheater with a practice football field. There, fabric roof panels are hung from steel trusses that frame the space. The outer steel structure allows for a monolithic fabric ceiling that can be bathed in LED light.
Social Sensory ArchitecturesLab for Material Architectures
At the University of Michigan A. Alfred Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning, for example, Sean Ahlquist is working across disciplines and with industrial and corporate partners to develop articulated material structures and design approaches that “enable the study of spatial behaviors and human interaction.” Ahlquist’s research focuses on using computational design and fabrication to create structures and spaces that move “beyond materialization” to focus on “sensing, feedback, and engagement as critical factors of design exploration,” according to a recent scholarly article he wrote.
Using CNC knitting, hybrid yarns, and other digital fabrication techniques, Ahlquist’s research team is able to generate pre-stressed lightweight structures, innovations in textile-reinforced composite materials for aerospace and automotive design, as well tactile sensory environments that can act as “interfaces for physical interaction.”
A recent project for Exhibit Columbus in Columbus, Indiana, creates custom textile micro-architectures by manipulating fibers and stitches to generate “instrumentalized, simultaneous structural, spatial, and sensory-responsive qualities” in fabric structures that can be used by children with autism to filter and manage multiple sensory inputs.
Completed in March 2019, Allianz Field is a 346,000-square-foot soccer stadium located centrally between Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. The project was executed by Populous, Walter P Moore (WPM), Mortenson Construction, and FabriTec Structures, and it features a facade of woven fiberglass clear-laminated with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE)—effectively a tensile membrane capable of shielding the audience from the elements while transmitting twice as much light as other PTFE membranes.
According to the design team, the client initially approached Populous and Walter P Moore to produce a stadium with a translucent facade. The group was aware of a clear PTFE laminate being developed by French manufacturer Saint Gobain—now known as Illuminate 28—and facilitated the shipment of moderately sized samples from the company. These samples were used to construct a 6-by-6-foot mockup with the material to gauge its tensile and lighting qualities. The design and construction of the stadium occurred as the facade material was being developed.
ConsultantWalter P Moore
LocationSt. Paul, Minnesota
PTFE-coated fiberglass membrane suspended over steel structural system
The enclosure system of the stadium consists of three interconnected layers: the exterior skin of PTFE-laminated fabric, a secondary backup system of steel driver pipes and armatures, and a circular colonnade of steel columns.
In abstract terms, this enclosure system sounds simple enough. However, unlike rigid cladding materials, the tensile strength of fabric is ultimately determined by the 3-D shape it is stretched into. “We never knew if our fabric shapes would work or not from an engineering standpoint until after the design was complete,” said Populous associate principal Phil Kolbo. “To achieve the design, Populous and WPM had to set up a cohesive process that could design, test, and modify the supporting steel quickly and iteratively to satisfy both the design and engineering requirements of the skin.”
In total, over 90,000 square feet of fabric wrap the stadium. Due to budget constraints, the design team had to maximize the spans between structural components. Utilizing Rhino and Grasshopper 3-D imaging software programs, WPM created nearly 50,000 analysis elements to locate sites where the fabric was overstressed. This information was then exported from Rhino to Tekla software and delivered to the steel fabricator.
“Once we had a fabric and driver pipe design, then it was supporting the process throughout getting the owner, Mortenson, and FabriTec comfortable with the material and construction process,” said Walter P Moore principal Justin Barton. “It started in February 2016 and went all the way through FabriTec’s final installation and punch list in late 2018, nearly 24 months of continual conversation.”
Populous Associate Principal Phil Kolbo, Walter P Moore Project Manager Justin Barton, Mortenson GC Project Engineer Nate Weingart, and FabriTec Structures Executive Vice President Tom Wuerch, will be joining the panel "Stadium Rising: The Complexities of Allianz Field’s Woven PTFE Facade" at The Architect's Newspaper's upcoming Facades+ Minneapolis conference on July 24.
The Madison Square Garden Company (MSG) has revealed renderings and details of its Populous-designed MSG Sphere London, a massive, well, sphere set to sprout up in London. Similar to the forthcoming MSG sphere planned for Las Vegas, the London Sphere, if approved, would be covered in high-tech LED screens both inside and out, so that the event inside can be seen up to 500 feet away.
The developer has selected a 4.7-acre site in Stratford, east London, according to The Guardian, close to the site of the 2012 Olympics Park. The 300-foot-tall, 400-foot-wide dome will hold around 17,500 seated guests and 21,500 seated and standing visitors, which would make it, if built as planned, the largest concert space in the entire United Kingdom.
Inside, stadium seating will face a central stage, and a massive LED screen will clad the Sphere’s interior to augment the performance. Other than concerts, MSG has suggested that the venue might be used to host everything from award shows to esport competitions—all events that would benefit from an arena-spanning digital backdrop. The Sphere will also hold retail, a café, a 450-person restaurant and club, and a 1,500-person-capacity black box-type venue for local and emerging artists to perform in.
Plans for the MSG Sphere London were submitted to the City of London on March 26, though London Mayor Sadiq Khan had already voiced his approval for the project when it was first revealed last February. If the scheme is approved, construction would take three years, and MSG expects that the entertainment dome could be completed by 2022. However, Khan's approval doesn't mean the project will face smooth sailing, as local residents have argued that up to 1,400 new housing units could be built on the site instead.
Across the pond, construction on the Las Vegas Sphere is well underway, and the venue is expected to open in 2021. The 18,000-seat arena will feature high-tech perks such as speedy internet at every seat, and “planar audio waves”—concentrated, targeted sound—bounced directly to each guest courtesy the German company Holoplot.
A $50 million, esports arena is coming to the South Philadelphia Sports Complex courtesy of designers Populous, Comcast Spectacor (Comcast’s sports and entertainment division), and developer The Cordish Companies. Once complete, the geometric Fusion Arena will hold up to 3,500 seats and will be the largest esports venue in the Western Hemisphere.
Fusion Arena certainly isn’t the first competitive videogame venue in the country (before this, Populous’s Esports Stadium Arlington in Texas was the largest in the U.S.), and it likely won’t be the last thanks to the meteoric popularity of esports in recent years. The difference with this project is that the ground-up esports arena will house a Philadelphia Fusion esports franchise, similar to the professional-team-and-home-field-stadium model seen in traditional sports.
Philadelphia's new Fusion Arena from Architect's Newspaper on Vimeo.
For the arena’s exterior, Populous took a cue from the angular, high-contrast world of gaming hardware and peripherals. The building’s vertically-striated black facade wraps several colorful overhangs and is reminiscent of a kitted-out gaming mouse in form. Industrial materials were used both inside and out in reference to Philadelphia’s manufacturing history.
Other than the stadium seating, the building will hold a 10,000-square-foot training facility for players to practice in, as well as a broadcast studio for livestreaming, and team offices. A 6,000-square-foot, 30-foot-tall entrance hall will greet visitors. When not in use for competitive gaming, it’s expected that the arena will be used to host year-round live events.
Fusion Arena is expected to break ground sometime this summer.
Move over Jacksonville Jaguars, the Tampa Bay Rays are the latest Floridian sports franchise to build big. The baseball team announced last week that it would be pursuing plans for an ambitious, $892 million ballpark in Tampa designed by Populous, but details of how the team would pay for the project are still scarce.
Tropicana Field, the Rays’ current home in neighboring St. Petersburg, is the MLB’s smallest and the Rays frequently measure dead last in average home field attendance rates. The Rays have conceded a new stadium isn’t technically necessary, but they want to use the new scheme to drum up attendance and enthusiasm.
The stadium has been proposed for downtown Tampa’s nationally landmarked Ybor City district, about 20 miles from Tropicana Field. Despite the price tag, the new ballpark would remain the smallest in the league and only seat approximately 30,000, about the same as the Rays’ current home. Capacity isn’t the potential ball park’s draw; that lies in the location and more exciting design.
The proposed ballpark’s most distinctive features are the dramatic tilt and swoop of the roofline and the non-retractable glass dome that would enclose the field, reminiscent of Buckminster Fuller’s Dodger Dome. The structural cross-bracing on the underside of the translucent dome would resemble a coffered ceiling when seen from below. Clear glass panels would rise closer to the outfield and meet the lip of the dome as it wrapped around the building. A massive sunshade has been proposed for the backside of the roof, where most of the seating would be. The glass ceiling alone is projected to cost around 30 percent of the project’s nearly $900 million budget.
The Rays would also create a multi-level retail podium around the ballpark’s base, with the field itself sitting in the middle and anchoring the development. The buildings at ground level would feature sliding glass walls capable of retracting during nicer weather.
The principal owner of the Rays, Stuart Sternberg, explained to the Chicago Tribune that the move was part of the team’s attempt at leaving a legacy in Tampa, which is why the new plan bucks what might be expected of a stadium proposal.
The team has admitted that the renderings are, in part, designed to drum up public and private investment in the new stadium. The team will reportedly contribute anywhere from $150 to $400 million to the project depending on whether they can secure a naming rights purchase, but taxpayers could ultimately be responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in bond debt depending on how a deal shapes up.
The Rays are aiming to open the field in time for the 2023 season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, a team known for their less-than-stellar record, are going big on their home turf. At their April 19th State of the Franchise event, the team announced that they would be partnering with local firm Iguana Investments (run by Jaguars owner Shad Khan) and national developer The Cordish Companies to realize a $2.5 billion, 4.25-million-square-foot mixed-use neighborhood around their Jacksonville, Florida stadium, master-planned by Beyer Blinder Belle.
The proposal to redevelop the area around the Jaguars’ EverBank Field, the formerly-industrial Jacksonville Shipyards, is an expansion of the team’s plans first presented during the 2017 State of the Franchise. It also marks the second time that Khan has won the right to build in the area after the city’s Downtown Investment Authority scuttled Iguana’s original plans for the site in 2016.
The Jaguar’s latest plan seeks to tie the downtown Shipyards to the rest of the city. To do that, the development team wants to drop a new neighborhood on the waterfront. The proposal would bring office space, a “Live!” arena (Live! is used to brand Cordish venues), dining options, a hotel tower, a parking garage to offset the loss of the lots, and “luxury residential living” on top of the parking lots between the stadium and the St. John’s River. While it’s early on in the development cycle, the renderings show a suite of towers clustered around the stadium, including a hotel building on the waterfront at least 15 stories tall.
However, the Jaguars may face a host of hurdles in building out the Shipyards. The project is slated to break ground on Lot J, the stretch between the Populous-designed Daily’s Place amphitheater and a detention pond to the west. The lot’s top four feet of soil is contaminated with petroleum from the site’s manufacturing past and currently capped with a clay wall and asphalt. Any digging in the area would need to be preceded by environmental remediation, and the sitemap released on Thursday leaves out the most heavily polluted sections of the Shipyards.
Complicating things further is that both the northern and southern sections of the site present their own set of challenges. Building to the north would mean getting approval from the city government and the military community to relocate a Veterans Memorial Wall to a new Veterans Park along the waterfront. Developing the southern portion towards the river would mean potentially tearing down an elevated ramp at the adjacent Hart Bridge, which would also require action by the city.
The project has been designed as a public-private partnership, but it remains to be seen how much the public will be paying for it. It’s uncertain when construction will begin and how long it will require, but as Cordish Companies Vice President Blake Cordish told Jacksonville.com, “Completing full build-out could take a generation.”
The city of Arlington, Texas has put forward plans to build the country’s largest eSports stadium, announcing the move today in a joint statement with global architecture studio Populous and Esports Venues, LLC. If everything goes as planned, the Arlington Convention Center will be converted into a 100,000-square-foot, eSports-exclusive arena rebranded as Esports Stadium Arlington.
While eSports are rapidly growing in popularity in the U.S., high-profile events have typically been held in established sports venues and lack the dedicated destination stadiums that their more physical counterparts can claim. Populous is known for its more traditional sports architecture projects, but the collaboration makes sense, especially as the firm released a proposal for a speculative “esports venue of the future” at 2017’s South by Southwest (SXSW).
Through a $10 million investment, Arlington and Esports Venues will transform the convention center into a new stadium that can seat up to 1,000 spectators. The transformed stadium will also hold gaming, retail and social spaces, as well as a broadcast studio and VIP hospitality areas. Besides being the country’s largest eSports venue (Blizzard had launched their own smaller project in October of last year), Populous and Arlington are pitching the new stadium as a model of adaptive reuse that other convention centers and stadiums around the country can follow.
Arlington is banking on the growth of eSports to fuel demand at the new location, as the funding for the project is expected to be paid through event revenue, naming rights and lease payments from Esports Venues. It’s not a dangerous wager, either, as the value of the global esports industry is expected to grow to $1.5 billion by 2020, and dedicated eSports venues have been popping up across South Korea and China for years.
Designing an eSports stadium does present a few unique opportunities, according to Brian Mirakian, senior principal at Populous, especially as matches could potentially run for several hours at a time.
“Because of the length of the event, the way that we see the concourse environments in traditional venues is mainly for circulation. We see the concourse as more of a place for social migration and entertainment,” Mirakian told AN. “Sightlines are very different in esports events, and fans want to be higher up in the seating bowl instead of closer to the stage so they can see the screen more clearly. The demographic is different, the demands are different, and the premium experiences are different.”
Esports Stadium Arlington is expected to open later this year.
The West Coast’s ginned-up professional sports team expansion atmosphere has finally spread to Seattle, where Los Angeles–based developer Oak View Group and architects Populous are looking to renovate the city’s storied KeyArena with the hope of bringing several professional sports teams to town.
After years of trying to build a totally new stadium in a different neighborhood in anticipation of a new National Hockey League (NHL) franchise, city leaders changed course in 2017, opting instead to greenlight the renovation of the historic KeyArena complex. The change of plans worked—after the city approved the renovation plan, the NHL announced it would bring a new team to Seattle for the 2020 season, cementing KeyArena as the lynchpin of a revitalized Seattle Center sports district.
Populous will repurpose and expand the existing arena, which was designed by architect Paul Thiry in 1962 as the Washington State Pavilion for the Century 21 Exposition. The arena hosted the Seattle Supersonics NBA team until the franchise relocated in 2008. The arena is still in use, however, and currently hosts Seattle’s WNBA franchise, among other tenants. The arena was refurbished and expanded once before in 1994 by NBBJ when the architects dropped the arena floor 35 feet below street level and boosted seating capacity by 3,000 seats. Still, problems with inadequate sight lines from the stands, limited opportunities for concession offerings, few club spaces, and deferred maintenance lingered at the venue.
With the forthcoming redesign, the architects are seeking to rectify those shortfalls while preserving the iconic spaceship-like structure by digging 15 feet further down in order to expand the facility to 600,000 square feet in size and add even more seating. The new designs would create flexible seating configurations that will resolve the sightline issues while also providing enough seating to host the NHL team as well as the potentially forthcoming NBA team.
In all, the new arena is planned to hold up to 17,100 seats for hockey games, 18,350 seats for basketball games, and between 16,940 to 19,100 seats for music concerts. The project is billed as a top-shelf preservation effort as well, and will be designed to meet the historic preservation standards for building restoration. The end result will be a more-or-less wholly new arena, capped by a restored sculptural concrete roof.
An environmental impact review is currently underway for the renovations. The City of Seattle hopes to finish the review sometime this year so that construction can commence and the renovated facilities can open in time for the 2020 NHL season.