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Exciting encounters

Robert Mankin, AIA, LEED AP, Partner, NBBJ, describes designing the first soccer-specific stadium in the US, examines the boom in amenities for fans and recounts his experience of renovating iconic venues

 

What services does your company offer to the industry?
NBBJ is a full-service architectural design firm, offering urban design, interior architecture, planning, lighting design, environmental graphics, and strategy and consulting services. For the Sports and Entertainment market, the company offers new stadium planning, programming, environmental graphic design, renovation, new facility design, LEED and sustainable design initiatives, and sound practices for stadia design across the range of sports, from NFL, NBA, and MLB to NCAA athletics and collegiate recreation facilities. We specialize in balancing programmatic function with design aesthetics to execute sports facilities with speed, precision, and economy.


Could you tell us an interesting fact about your company?
NBBJ has designed the nation’s first stadium dedicated to professional soccer. The facility design elegantly combines the intimacy of European Soccer with traditional American sports amenities and with the Crew’s hard working image.

NBBJ’s design for Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio won the first national American Institute of Architects’ Honour Award for a sports stadium. This innovative, open-air facility incorporates design elements that provide superior sight-lines of the field, out of the stadium North towards downtown Cincinnati, and South across the Ohio riverfront. As the centerpiece in a program to revitalize downtown, the stadium’s sculptural identity brings a contemporary focus to the area and redefines the City’s historic riverfront roots.

What trends do you see emerging in your particular sector of the stadium industry?
The current stadium design trend sees an enhanced fan experience through home-like amenities such as club and suite box seating. These enhanced amenities offer fans the option to host personal events and parties during the game and during off-season—providing additional function for stadia that are increasingly becoming important civic landmarks in their respective communities. We have also seen an uptick in fans’ desire to view instant playbacks and play-by-play reports on their smart phones, i-Pads, and tablet devices. In order to address these needs, we typically provide wireless internet access throughout the bowl, concourse, club, and suite boxes, allowing fans direct, personal access to all the action.

Can you tell us about a recent success story for your company?
NBBJ has been involved in the renovation and feasibility analysis of two Iconic Sports Venues, UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion and University of Kentucky’s Rupp Arena. Pauley Pavilion’s design brings the facility on par with UCLA’s Division I competitors while maintaining the beloved icon’s spirited history. The exterior impression of the building will be transformed into a new Pauley Pavilion that celebrates the tradition of the old. The event experience will be enhanced through improvements made to the seating, aisles, handrails, and the bowl.

For Rupp Arena, NBBJ provided an extensive feasibility analysis to assess the facility’s condition and offer design options to the University that include renovation, expansion, or new construction.

What are the biggest challenges you’re facing in your particular sector of the industry – and how are you overcoming them?
Two major challenges in the design of stadia are the speed of construction document delivery and the fees associated with those expedited documents. As an international design firm, we have enhanced our understanding of global design work and bring that knowledge to bear in stadia design. Through parametric design tools and strategies, we are able to bring greater efficiencies to our work. We develop BIM models that accurately reflect the built environment, saving time and money during both design and construction phases of the work. Moreover, maintenance and operations crews can use these BIM models to increase their efficiency during future maintenance efforts.

What new technologies or strategies have you used in any recent projects?
Hangzhou Stadium, an 80,000 seat stadium in Hangzhou, China, was designed using parametric, computational design tools. The designers leveraged advanced parametric scripts and modelling techniques (Grasshopper) to develop and optimise the exterior shell. Because the model was parametric, design changes are made with an extremely short turnaround, eliminating the ‘build-test-discard’ method common in traditional modelling. These efficiencies offer pronounced cost and schedules savings for our stadia clients and offer elegant design solutions that balance programme, form, and function in innovative ways.

What’s your favourite stadium/sports venue and why?
Staples Center. The highly flexible nature of this facility allows it to host over 260 events annually including sporting, music, theatre, and other performances events. The facility has acted as a catalyst for the dynamic development of LA Live, and the design reflects a new vision for the City of Los Angeles and the emerging, engaging, enlivening South Park District of Downtown.
 

Where do you see the stadium market in 10 years’ time?
As the stadium market moves toward a more engaging fan experience, one new offering will include up-close game action that allows fans in attendance exclusive camera angles, play-by-play reports, and instant replays direct to their personal devices. To further engage with fans, new stadium design allows fans access to players through shared use of exiting tunnels and private bars. These innovative design moves provide the fans a whole new reason to come to the game while also providing a new revenue stream. Fans desire an interaction with their teams that they cannot get at home — the stadium will become the place for these new and exciting chance encounters.
 

NBBJ will be exhibiting at Stadia Design & Technology Expo 2012, 8-10 May 2012. Visit the company at Booth 3014.

 

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