We’ve got new Yankee Stadium on the mind this week. After looking at the parks issue earlier today, I came across another bit on the current retro trend in stadium design. This piece — on Fast Company via Shysterball — takes a more “old is old, new is new” approach to the new digs in New York.
While The New Yorker’s architectural critic likes the new stadium, Fast Company’s Zachary Wilson is underwhelmed. He writes:
Baseball fans are loyal not just to their teams, but also to the history of the game. 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…
The focus on nonbaseball elements foreshadows a more multidimensional future for stadiums. Until now, they’ve been mostly single-use venues plopped on a plot of land with little regard for the surroundings. Fans came, they saw, they left. But the stadium of the future must be — and do — much more. “These very expensive facilities just cannot sit empty for days and days,” says Steve Burrows, director of the London-based venue-design firm Arup Sport. “You need to build some retail and commercial to give the stadium life every day. When it works, it’s like a magnet.”
Wilson ends in calling both CitiField and new Yankee Stadium “bold, costly and disappointingly retro.” What though is the alternative?
The Yankees were replacing a historic building and opted for a new take on the old façade. The Mets were replacing a dump and are opening a modernized stadium evoking Ebbets Field. Perhaps these buildings aren’t as crazy as the Water Cube in Beijing, but are they really supposed to be?
CitiField and Yankee Stadium are baseball stadiums designed to bring modern amenities in a setting that relates back to the rich and stories history of baseball in New York. Maybe, as Craig at Shysterball writes, architects should think about instilling a modern sensibility into new stadium design, but there’s nothing wrong with tipping the past at the same time.