HOK gets blamed for the increasingly stale retro-park craze, but it’s what the fans and, ultimately, the clubs want. According to this article in Fast Company, however, it, and other architectural firms, are doing different things elsewhere:

Ever since Camden Yards opened in Baltimore in 1992, new stadiums have chased nostalgia. “Teams want to rebirth themselves into who they were in the first era of baseball,” says HOK Sport senior principal Earl Santee. “People want to see a traditional sport like baseball played in a traditional building.” So the Yankees’ new $1.3 billion park echoes their original 1923 one, with the same vaulted arches and stone facade. The main entry is still at Gate 4, guarded by golden eagles, and the seats are the same blue.

For the price, the Yankees didn’t make much architectural progress, but that’s not what they intended. “U.S. clients are more conservative, especially in the baseball industry. Architects get roped into doing retro ballparks over and over,” says Manica Architecture principal David Manica, who is designing stadiums in China and Belarus. “We’re trying to push clients in the U.S. to think in a different way, but international clients are just more open to experimenting.” For example, Manica has a project in Guangzhou, China, that will look like a spaceship, while HOK Sport’s Nanjing Olympic Sports Centre, also in China, has huge, glowing red arches that show the firm’s daring side.

I don’t suppose there was ever any chance that the New York parks were going to break away from the retro thing, but I had higher hopes for Washington and some other places. I don’t need spaceships, but there isn’t a ballpark out there that can even arguably be described as bold or forward looking from a design perspective.

It’s weird to think that, of all of the new ballparks out there, two of the oldest in operation — Dodger Stadium and Kauffman — may have the best claim to actually posessing a modern sensibility about them.

Print Friendly
 Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone
« Previous: Great Moments in Expectation-Lowering
Next: Asymmetric dominance and trade proposals »


  1. TC said...

    I remember reading about the various Olympic stadia in China about 5 years ago, maybe more, when the buildings were just beginning to be built, and thinking about how amazing they were.  It’s a shame, I think, that American architecture (when it comes to sports, at least) is so based on nostalgia, instead of addressing problems, and their solutions.

    Building a stadium to act like a bird’s nest, to make climate control easy?  Brilliant.  Building a stadium with exposed I-beams and red brick to make it seem old-timey?  Really, really, tired.

  2. Wooden U. Lykteneau said...

    I think that all depends on your perspective. For my part, I *wish* more minor-league parks had a cantilevered roof, which apparently went out of style around 1950.

    The sad reality is it appears that you’re more likely to see them in the North, where they’re really only needed for rain delays, versus the South, where the smart teams don’t schedule day games after May.

    That may be boring in terms of architecture, but if you disagree, well, you’re more than welcome to sit in the steel-and-concrete bowls in 95-degree heat and see how long it is until you need an IV.

  3. mr.bmc said...

    The preliminary sketches for the Miami Marlins stadium looked pretty slick. It had modernist influences in its symmetry and structural accents but its color palette and roof shape are uniquely influenced by South Floridian art deco.

    Too bad nobody wants to pay for it.

  4. kendynamo said...

    the new nats part has suprisingly little of the nostalgic look.  though, it doesn’t really have a real modern look either.  it’s just kind of there.  ooh, but it does have its own build-a-bear station!

  5. Grant said...

    Not to quibble (ok, a little). These Chinese stadiums described aren’t really modern, either. Dodger and Kauffman are definitely modern. And actually most of the original retro parks, if you will, were built during or near the period of High Modernism in the early twentieth century. What these Chinese parks are is decidedly postmodern (think much of Hong Kong, or the Petronas Towers, say). And Americans just generally don’t seem as into that kind of postmodern architecture as some other places. I think it mostly has to do with the fact that we have already fully industrialized. Our symbols of having arrived are the Sears Tower and the Chrysler Building, decided modern edifices. The currently-arriving Chinese are building in the postmodern style. Thus this tendency towards cultural affinity gets reflected in ballpark style, too.

  6. Simon said...

    Maybe baseball clubs prefer retro parks because, unlike a corporate office building, they actually have to appeal to the public. 

    Much of modernist style is just an expression of the architect’s narcissism—little effort to integrate with their surroundings, no attempt to work within the traditions of a particular place, etc.  An architecturally “daring” building in Shanghai could just as easily be located in Brussels or Kansas City and no one would know the difference.

    The extreme forms of retro ballpark style come close to kitsch (think about Houston’s ridiculous fake railroad).  But the better ones (Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Baltimore, Cleveland) are simply built to last.  People 50 years from now will still admire these parks. It’s unlikely that the same can be said for any modernist building.

  7. TC said...


    In regards to fitting with the local environs:

    In at least a few cities, including Philadelphia, and Anaheim, and I believe Tampa, the stadium is the only game around.  Citizens Bank Park, to use my most familiar example, is adjacent to 3 other stadiums (one of which is soon to be demolished), but is otherwise only surrounded by parking lots and highways.  In that sense, Veterans Stadium—a steel and concrete behemoth, fit in perfectly.  On the other hand, the most bizarre possible stadium might do nicely there, just to give a rather bleak area some pizazz.

  8. Joao said...

    You can’t blame baseball for not being modern, or not experimenting.  Baseball isn’t the right sport to experiment with.  You should blame football and basketball, sports with little by way of a need for nostalgia in the way they build their stadiums.  Why aren’t there any real cutting edge designs in the building of indoor stadiums?

    There’s at least one farily interestingly designed stadium in the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals stadium.

  9. Joao said...

    I’ll say something else.  Part of what I hate about modernist style buildings is that, for the most part, they do a terrible job of integrating with their surroundings.  One of the great things about Candem Yards was how it achieved this in an organic way within a dense urban environment.  That, I think, is its most important contribution.  Its hard to do that with arquitectural experiments.

  10. Bob Rittner said...

    I thought the plans for the Rays waterfront stadium with a sail-like roof looked very beautiful and unique as far as U.S. baseball stadiums go. It seems that it is a no go, but perhaps when they do get a new ballpark they will find a similarly innovative design.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>