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.