Saturday, May 21, 2005
“They're not McKim, Mead & White”
I WENT to a Tigers game last night, at the new Comerica Park, designed by HOK. It was a good park, with 45,000 people having a good time on a Saturday night. That was nice to see, particularly in Detroit, which has large sections that look like Dresden after the bombing. Comerica's at the heart of the city, one block off Woodward Avenue, opposite the famous Fox Theater. Sitting inside the stadium, the Detroit skyline sits just outside center field.
There's plenty to criticize — surface parking covers the block between Woodward and Comerica, and there are two more blocks of surface parking directly to the south. HOK will never be confused with M, M & W, and they sometimes confuse traditional design with theme park kitsch. Example: the tiger heads with globe lights in their mouths are too big, and they're used too frequently. And the field is below ground level, because it's cheaper to dig down than build up, but the result is less civic presence.
But a lot of the park works well, and it's good to see tens of thousands of suburbanites coming downtown and enjoying public life. The concourse that rings the field is particularly well done. It opens directly to lower deck: the bottom of the luxury boxes above, and the columns holding them up, beautifully frame the field beyond. Behind the luxury boxes, the concourse opens to a triple height space that's comfortably proportioned. Green metal framing holds all this up. The way that this and the upper concourse are worked into the structure of the stadium are an improvement over the food-court like spaces of the original traditional park, Camden Yards.
Will HOK ever be brave enough to build a new stadium the old way, with columns holding up the upper decks? This drawing from Phil Bess and Save Fenway Park shows how much closer fans in the upper deck can be when the deck is held up with columns that come down in the seats rather than cantilevered over them. Less obvious is the way they spatially contain the field and frame the view out over the field.
One of the reasons Fenway Park is the best ballpark experience is because it's the most spatial experience. When you stand in the concourse surrounding the seats at Fenway, the space is beautiful. And the field itself is tightly contained by the Green Monster and the structure, closer to field at Fenway than at any other park.
The next time I go to Fenway, I'll take some photos that better illustrate this.
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Fenway is a fantastic experience, although on my visit last summer I scored some seats right behind one of those columns. Luckily we got to scoot over into a couple of vacant seats a few over, but it was a reminder that there are pluses and minuses to classic ballpark construction.
Posted by: Michael Bierut at Apr 28, 2008 6:53:06 AM