The Peter Eisenman and Populous-designed State Farm Stadium, which is set to host Super Bowl 57 had the world’s first retractable field and presented an innovative change from previous stadiums, say its designers.
The 65,000-seat venue, which was called the University of Arizona Stadium when it opened in 2006, was designed by Eisenman and Populous and constructed by Hunt Construction Group.
“I think it’s really important to have good architecture and to have architecture be part of the NFL,” Eisenman told Dezeen.
“And I know a lot of people will watch the game and say wow, look at that stadium. When I go there, it’s really exciting for me, because it’s one of the designs that I really was interested in.”
Eisenman explained that the design of the stadium was originally supposed to be decided via a competition.
However, after impressing the ownership with his knowledge of the game by listing the names of the Cardinal’s offensive players during the 1949 season, Eisenman’s studio was given the project.
The original design approach was to get away from the classical bowl-style stadiums that were symmetrical and “like the Colosseum”.
The team approached a number of cities in Arizona to host the stadium and finally landed on Glendale, a suburb northeast of Phoenix.
“None of the big towns would take it,” said Eisenman.
“So Glendale, which had nothing at the time, said ‘we’ll step up and finance to project’ and it was really exciting. We suddenly had a client that a town that would allow us to do the kind of stadium that we wanted.”
“They wanted a stadium that was 24/7”
The final design saw the first stadium in the world to feature a retractable field, which allows natural grass to be grown outside and then slide into the stadium on a series of treads.
Weighing 8.9 million lbs (4.03 million kgs) the retractable field comprises a steel and concrete tray that holds the turf. Thirteen 1,146-foot-long (349 metres) beams are embedded in the foundation of the stadium.
The field allows the stadium to have natural turf, which cannot be grown inside the walls of the stadium – and is complete with a built-in irrigation and drainage system.
It also allows events like concerts and conventions to be held on the concrete that undergirds the retractable-field system.
“They wanted to have a stadium that was 24/7 – that operated not only on Sunday but on Monday morning,” said Eisenman.
“And so we made a whole stadium on the principle that you could finish playing at six o’clock on Sunday and open for business at 8am on Monday morning.”
Besides the retractable field, something that has only been repeated in the US by Manica Architecture for Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, State Farm Stadium also has a retractable roof and a seating area that can expand to 72,800 seats for large events.
The roof is made out of Birdair fabric and takes about 12 minutes to completely open or close and can remain in that position for four days.
“State Farm Stadium set a standard for the new age of sports design: design that combines fan experience, incredible functionality, thoughtful placemaking and technological innovation for the next great gathering place,” said Populous principal Brady Spencer, a member of the original design team.
“This stadium is important to us as it marks an early instance of how we think and design at Populous.”
“Now, to see it evolve and continue to host global events is personally gratifying, and affirming to our approach as a firm.”
The structure itself is characterised by a barrel-like envelope covered in insulated steel, punctuated by horizontal strips of glazing.
It was Eisenman’s first completed stadium, and the architect has said that the design takes inspiration from desert themes, such as the coil of a snake and the barrel of a cactus.
Primarily concrete and rebar, the structure is characterised by four massive columns that support two Brunel trusses.
Six storeys of occupiable space characterise the concourse, which wraps around the field and sits under the movable dome.
In 2018, the NFL announced a series of renovations to the structure to prepare for 2023’s Super Bowl.
Clocking in at $100 million, these renovations included updates to the club areas of the stadium as well as an expansion of parking facilities and a pedestrian tunnel and bridge.
Many of the club renovations were carried out with “female fans in mind” according to local news source AZcentral, due to the changing fanbase of the NFL.
While the stadium remains Eisenman’s only, Populous has gone on to design a number of stadiums, including Geodis Park in Nashville, the largest purpose-built soccer stadium in the United States.
Construction is also underway on the studio’s massive spherical structure in the middle of London to be used for concerts and E-sports.
The photography is by David Sundberg/Esto.
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