Baseball parks are better than office buildings


In the summer '05 City Journal, I found a piece whose subtitle says it all: Today's new baseball stadiums offer a lesson in smart urbanism.

George Steinbrenner’s plan to build a new Yankee Stadium is part of a new and different kind of sports-building boom. What everybody calls “ballparks”—intimate, charming fields, with flourishes of historical design that fans love—are springing up everywhere, and New York will soon join the fun with a Yankee Stadium that incorporates some features of the original, but in a cozier, viewer-friendlier setting. It’s too bad that office-tower developers (and the firms that rent space in the offices) haven’t followed suit with people-centric buildings. The builders continue to uglify American cities with soulless modern office monstrosities; Daniel Libeskind’s inhuman glass Freedom Tower for the World Trade Center site, even as modified by architect David Childs, would be only the latest example.


Predictably, the modernist- and postmodernist-dominated architectural establishment hates the new stadiums. Former New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp, for instance, dubs them “America’s most diseased building type,” rising out of baseball’s “sickly longings for a past that never existed, a pastoral, even anti-urban, vision.”

In fact, the new parks are anything but anti-urban. One of their key appeals is how they respectfully integrate with the urban landscapes around them. San Diego’s Petco Park, an exemplar of the new-old style, for instance, incorporates elements of the local Spanish-mission style, including a lovely sandstone and tan stucco exterior. Similarly, designers finished off the facade of Pittsburgh’s PNC Park in rough limestone to match its setting in a former industrial area.

By contrast, the modernists largely ignore the idea of architectural context, believing that it shackles their imaginations. It’s a shame that developers and business executives have caved under elite pressure and erected and occupied so many alienating modernist office buildings. It’s rare to find a developer who’ll actually live in a home built in this arid style. And it’s worth noting that CEO offices in today’s Corbusian towers often boast wood paneling and other warm features sharply at odds with the cold environments encasing them. Yet the modernist eyesores keep going up, perhaps because those who commission them don’t want to look behind the times.

It's a great piece, and the fact that it disparages U.S. Cellular Field doesn't influence my opinion at all.

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This page contains a single entry by Papa-Lu published on November 8, 2005 9:00 AM.

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