Thursday, March 16, 2006

More Ballpark Thoughts

I appreciate both DM and Dexy's statements concerning the ballpark and, as the person on this blog that has probably written the most about stadium finance and design, I feel like I need to add my own thoughts.

When I first saw the design, I had a weird reaction that I couldn't quite place. My thought was "bus station." I'm not sure why; I think it had to do with all the small windows facing the street. Upon reflection, and a little bit of research, I believe I know what my reaction was based upon - National Airport.

Sure, that's a little weird, isn't it. But I also realize that I drive past National everyday, and maybe what I was thinking of are the parking garages as much as the terminal itself:

So what we've got from the new Nationals stadium is a very urban, industrial design. It is a throwback to the 1960's - i.e., the way federal buildings were designed in the 1960's. I really should hate it.

I don't. Surprisingly enough, what I find compelling about it is the urban setting of the urban stadium. Camden Yards works so well because it is a brick structure set in a warehouse district of brick structures. It makes sense. Jacobs Field, by contrast, is a brick structure kind of pasted into Cleveland near I-90. I've never understood what my nagging objection to the Jake was, but that was it, lying their inchoate all the time - context.

The stadium design fits in well with the context of near Southwest / Southeast D.C. for some reason. If you've driven around the part of SW adjoining the stadium area to the west, that urban/industrial design seems like a natural fit.

The other amazing thing about it is that it feels like a city stadium. It's design looks jammed into a city block like Fenway or Yankee Stadium. It looks like the form followed its surroundings, giving it some additional harmony with the surroundings. Unlike Camden, it doesn't feel parachuted in to a neighborhood; it looks form fit, jammed in and bursting with energy. It's bizarre, but I do find myself kind of liking it.

We'll see. At this point, I think that Opening Day 2008 is absurdly ambitious - they probably needed to break ground months ago. When it's finished, we will know whether HOK pulled it off.


At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your comments seem pretty spot on to me. Most good ballparks fit into their neighborhoods, and it looks like this one will do that.

A lot of the design is undecided and will depend on who gets the ball club. If they want to drop some coin it could be a terrific place, if not...

btw, the DC transportation department has a website with several views of potential designs for the new South Capitol bridge, which will be built in 2011. The pictures and video are great because they give a good sense of the relationship between the neighborhood and the ballpark. To see the video go here and click on "alternatives."


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