Wednesday, April 2, 2008

new nationals stadium

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

My complaints with the Washington Post article on the Nationals' new stadium came quick, came early and came often. First up is the Kennicott's complaint that "Despite its location, the stadium fades into the landscape".. this is a personal taste sort of thing. Gehry gets derided for having his buildings stand-out.

I think the stadium has a good conversation with the city and its surroundings without taking away from the city. There is a discourse between the city and the stadium

Baseball is part of America--it's not meant to stand out. It's ingrained in all of our American DNA. And, let's get real--you can see the Capitol building in the background. If the stadium was ostentatious, it would be derided for stealing the thunder of one of (if not) the most picturesque cities our nation has to offer.

The best stadiums are built into the cities that they represent through sport. Fenway Park is built into Boston and is inauspicious. Orioles Park at Camden Yards is built into (and incorporates) Baltimore's shipyards. One of Highbury's (Arsenal's old ground) most endearing traits was that it was a small stadium because it was built into northeast London. During games, one could often see pictures of brownstones peeking from behind the stands.

These three stadiums are (and, in Highbury's case, was) regarded as among the best in their respective leagues for their charm and interplay between the city. Sure, we could build behemoth stadiums in the suburbs, but then we take the team out of the cities full of metropolitans that love and support them.

(a note on Allianz--I adore this stadium. My point is that it's not within Munich proper itself and takes away from the idea that teams represent cities)

"It is a machine for baseball and for sucking the money out of the pockets of people who like baseball, and it makes no apologies about its purely functional design."

Give me a break.

"Today, we have a great experience but, alas, a lousy building"

Was RFK a great building? No. And, with teams all going retro-modern, it would have been cliche to go in the same direction with Nationals Park.

It's one thing to have a pretty stadium. I think it's absolutely absurd to say "the experience is better, but I just don't like it as much". The Pirates play in a great stadium with the best view in baseball, but as this Slate article points out, they're absolutely terrible. When a team is downright dour, it's hard to get a great crowd, regardless of how great a stadium looks. Give me experience over looks anyday.

Function over form. Function over form. Function over form.


In my opinion, this was a lose-lose situation for the architects. If they made a gem of a modern stadium, cutting edge like Allianz, the masses would have said that they were alienating the past that made Washington..well, Washington. If they made a retro modern park, it would have been written off as trite--"It's so obvious to put an old-timey ballpark into Washington...couldn't they have thought of something new? *yawn*".

They made a functional park that complements its historical setting. The writer even found a way to knock the fact that, from the cheap seats, you can see the Capitol.

"Washington is a city where people can stare straight at the most powerful symbol of their democratic enfranchisement, and still feel absolutely powerless to change the course of our winner-takes-all society."


Who wrote this? A disenfranchised gothic high school junior in Kansas?

" It passes, barely. But as sports lovers know, sports is never just sports. And architecture, especially in a world capital, is never just architecture. Nationals Park might be a better experience than RFK, but it fails to say anything larger to the city, or the world."

We at the Collective view the world in the same way. However, I believe the stadium says everything about the city--"no one monument is any more important than any other, and no one person is more important than any other". I think the park is spot on