10 August 2006

"dynamism tamed"

Ouroussoff's review in today's Times of Peter Eisenman's new Cardinals stadium misses the point by focussing primarily on the architect's compromise between formal innovation and pragmatic realities. First of all, it's a fallacy to give Peter Eisenman any recognition for reinventing the stadium typology, as Ouruossoff seems to do. A football stadium is a football stadium, and this one seems no different. Sure, the motorized field that slides outside the air-conditioned stadium for sunlight and rain is pretty cool and innovative, and it could even be spun as some sort of contemporary, mega-futuristic folly (although one that reflects poorly on our culture's environmental and land-use priorities). But there is no attempt on Eisenman's part to question stadium convention in any formal or programmatic way. An earlier scheme included a somewhat more interesting attempt to integrate the facade slots into the landscape, but apparently that quietly fell prey to value engineering. The final product clearly demonstrates Eisenman's true role of providing the fancy metal icing for your standard wedding cake football stadium. Indeed, the design team of Eisenman Architects and HOK Sport seems to me less a partnership and more a division of labor: Eisenman does the outside skin, and HOK takes care of everything else.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Don't get me wrong - when I say that Nicolai is missing the point, I mean that he fails to grasp what Eisenman is really up to down in Arizona. A lifetime football nut, Eisenman is clearly having fun, designing a container for his favorite sport. The opportunity to design your own football stadium doesn't come around that often. I've heard this sentiment from the man himself at several lectures and presentations, and at 73, after a long combative career of pissing off people, wouldn't you want to kick back and work on something fun for a change?

So forget the lesson on value engineering, Nicolai. It's a stadium. A nice stadium, but a stadium nonetheless.

link: "Dynamism Tamed by Cost-Cutters" by Nicolai Ouroussoff, in the New York Times

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