Lots of Glass, Capital Views
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
District officials unveiled a design yesterday for a modern, 41,000-seat baseball stadium featuring massive glass panels, steel and concrete that they hope will echo the style of the city's monuments and spark economic development in a long-neglected industrial strip near the Anacostia River.
The ballpark, scheduled to open in March 2008, will offer views of the river on one side and of the U.S. Capitol dome on the other. It will include luxury boxes and several thousand club seats, revenue-generating amenities coveted by the Washington Nationals.
Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and other officials did the unveiling before a festive crowd of cheering baseball supporters at the Washington Convention Center, which is also distinguished by giant panels of glass and was built largely during Williams's tenure. Many of the same managers who oversaw that project are in charge of the ballpark near the Navy Yard and South Capitol Street in Southeast.
Architects from Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Sport of Kansas City, Mo., and Devrouax & Purnell of the District broke sharply from the red-brick throwback design popularized by Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Instead, the Nationals' future home will be defined by a straight, knife-edge building along South Capitol Street, intersected by the sweeping curve of the stadium bowl.
Glass panels will make up the walls of the stadium concourse, giving the ballpark a translucent quality and opening it to the surrounding neighborhoods, architects said. Heavy use of concrete, which will be painted to look like limestone, is intended to repeat design aspects found in the convention center, federal monuments and the Verizon Center to the north.
Cantilevered ramps -- one beyond left field and one along the first-base line -- will allow fans to take in views of the Capitol dome and the river, respectively, and many of the upper deck seats will provide similar views, architects said.
"We wanted to create a design so when you walk in the stadium, no matter at what point, you felt a sense of place that was unique to Washington, D.C.," said Williams, a two-term mayor who has fostered massive economic development and expects the ballpark to be part of his legacy. "We've broken the mold of architecture in the same way as we did with the convention center."
Still, not everyone was immediately charmed by the massive complex, whose only use of bricks might be for a "donors plaza" leading into the ballpark.
"I tend to like the more traditional look," Nationals President Tony Tavares said. "If I was in charge, I would not have designed this. That doesn't mean it's bad. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We are mostly concerned with the inside and how the stadium will function."
Inside the glass walls, the stadium will have 78 luxury suites, 4,000 high-priced club seats, a distinctive circular restaurant beyond center field and 40-foot-wide corridors that will give fans space to pause as they look out at the surrounding neighborhood or continue to follow the game as they visit concession and souvenir stands.
"This has got everything for everyone: something for architecture critics to admire and stuff for the baseball purists to love," said HOK Sport's principal designer, Joseph Spear, who also developed Camden Yards. "We wanted to create a place that was unique and is not a one-liner. We want people to still be discovering new things -- new views and areas -- in the third season."