Monday, September 17, 2012

New York's "Coliseums"

I know I know, you are probably asking why a picture of Bane and Maximus are doing on this post. These images have a lot of what I experienced as a sports fan while living in New York City, and which most of society do not realize. In my Architecture Senior Seminar course we had the option to write about anything related to the field while relating it to material we studied throughout the semester. I chose to write about sports architecture because we studied the history of Coney Island. This included how it was structured to entertain the public, including techniques that forced strangers to interact. If you have been following and reading my blog you know how passionate I am about sports and architecture, so I combined both for my paper. After weeks of research I realized that we are all "refugees" when attending sport events, including refugees of the sport even if we are not at the actual stadium. But I want to focus more on the actual attending of games. Have you really asked yourself why you spend money to go to games? I would have to say 99.9% of people will initially answer by saying to support their favorite team or player. Now do not get me wrong, that is a common and correct answer, but it goes deeper than that. Here is another question: Do you think about your problems or reality when at a sports game? I mean, naturally we have millions of thoughts crossing our mind, but when you go to game don't you notice you are more relaxed, happy, excited and enthusiastic when at a game. Now, I am sure some people reading this are like "duh!! your stating the obvious." But if I told you that architecture is the biggest reason why you feel that way, you would either tell me "no you are stupid" (usually the drunk people when I tell them this) or "really??" Let me start with this: don't you only find yourself in these moods in large crowds, when surrounded by other people that are there for the same reason. (the reason being a specific sports team or just a sports fan in general). We usually feel this way at bars watching games, or at a house bbq to watch the big game of the week. Essentially, we as people tend to be more out of control or in a celebratory mood when there are others doing the same thing. We feel a sense of comfort and security in masses, and here is where I bring Architecture into the picture. When invited to a Super Bowl party don't you catch yourself asking, "I wonder who else is going, I hope a lot of people will be there, hope there will be a lot of food and alcohol. I hope they have a big TV" etc etc. When you actually attend a game you never really ask yourself those questions because there is a lot of food and alcohol, along with the live action there are huge jumbo screens and of course, there are thousands of other people there. Going back to my refugee remark, I use this to label sport fans because we are refugees of society's shackles. Stadium etiquette is not accepted at work places, limited in the public and it varies at home because at least for me, being home with my family does not give me the opportunity to be drunk, scream, cry, cheer and smash things on a daily basis. As an aspiring architect there is a lot in the design process to make sure to maximize the experience of a sports fan at a "refugee camp." Stadiums and arenas these days are just more than the playing surfaces themselves but now there are sit down restaurants, lounges/clubs, high-end retail stores and bars. There is a lot more that goes into designing a stadium than putting seats together and laying out grass, dirt, hardwood, ice or turf. Stadiums have become miniature cities and a sports fan Utopia.

Below are my personal assessments of the New York sport structures I have been too and a paper I did for my Senior Seminar class. Within the paper you will see why I posted a picture of Bane and Maximus at the beginning!
Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, is a beautiful stadium. It is not as big or have that monumental feel like Yankee Stadium, but it means every seat in the house is a pretty good one. What makes the stadium pop is the hundred of adds and the Mets colors and logo throughout the stadium. I also like the steel bridge structure design throughout the stadium, which pays homage to the bridges that connect Manhattan to the other boroughs. But I do not think it is the most successful design of all the NY stadiums. I think the non existence of bleacher seating takes away from the rowdy atmosphere you would expect from fans.
Yankee Stadium is one of my favorite designs in New York. Populous, the architecture firm who also did the London Stadium for the Olympics, did a great job putting it together. It incorporates the luxury feel of the Yankee franchise without eliminating the traditional loyal drunk, rowdy fans by incorporating bleacher seating. The monumentality in both the materials and grand facade of the building makes it look and feel as though it came from antiquity. 
The only time I went to Madison Square Garden was for a concert, so I was deprived from a true sports fan experience. I had high expectations because it is considered the mecca of all meccas, but I felt disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I was excited that I was standing in the same building where some of the most memorable games in NBA history have happened, but I was expecting more of a "wow" factor from an architectural perspective. I went before they renovated it, so I would like to go to a game to make my full assessment of the Garden. What I know, aside from new seating etc, the layout was based on many college arenas by making the seating a lot more vertical. It allows for more seating and brings the fan closer to the action.
Metlife Stadium, home of the Giants and Jets, is my favorite structure. I could be a little bias because football is my favorite sport but I enjoyed it when I went to go see a game. I think the simple decor makes you focus on the game. It really does feel like a modern coliseum. The luxury boxes are built nicely into the design, which is important because there is not an obvious separation of fans from a financial perspective. Obviously closer seats to the field are more expensive, but it's not like Mets where luxury boxes are right behind home plate and imposing on other lower level seating. There is the option of standing behind the bench at Metlife, but that crowd is not being imposed on the rest of the stadium. So the financial tension is not as high compared to the tension at Citi Field.

Sports Architecture Copy

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