This semester’s Bass Studio will explore the urban design and development opportunities and challenges of large sports facilities in their host cities and neighborhoods. In particular, we will consider the spatial, social and economic impact of baseball stadiums in different urban contexts. Professional baseball has been, traditionally, an urban experience and source of identity in cities and towns across the country, and now around the world. However, in the years after World War II, as American urban development in general became more suburbanized and automobile-oriented, and with the movement of a number of franchises from older city sites to new locations, the typology and siting of baseball stadiums changed radically, especially at the Major League level. This often involved the building of generic facilities to accommodate sports and events in addition to baseball. An exception to this pattern in the 1960’s is Dodger Stadium, designed as a baseball-only facility in the era of multipurpose stadia, near the city center but woven into a park rather than the city grid. Then, with the development of Camden Yards by the Baltimore Orioles organization from 1989-92, an effort led in part by this year’s Bass Fellow, the pattern began to be change. Older facilities in historic cities, like Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago, were once again models emulated precisely for their urban intimacy, character and even spatial idiosyncrasies, and have been restored, renovated and adapted to modern patterns of use, while conserving their image and relationship to the surrounding urban fabric. New facilities, following the model of Camden Yards, seek to learn lessons from both older ballparks, as well as from the particularities and flavor of their urban settings. This has not been merely a matter of architectural character or style, but has also involved the careful study of scale, mixture of uses, patterns of circulation, and the rituals and experience of baseball itself. The impact of these developments has reached far beyond the major urban centers that have Major League teams, into medium-size cities and even small towns with minor league and independent teams, as well throughout the spring training venues of the Grapefruit League in Florida and the Cactus League in Arizona.
This studio will give students the opportunity to study the full gamut of scales, sites and circumstances, through visits to baseball parks across the country, the development of detailed analytic studies of a variety of stadiums, and then the design of two quite different projects that are currently under consideration by well-established organizations. The first project, to be completed by midterm, will involve the design of a new or redeveloped facility for the Pawtucket Red Sox or Pawsox, the AAA farm team of the Boston Red Sox (see description below). After midterm, the studio will focus on a very different project, the redevelopment of one of the icons of post-war modernism and urban renewal, Dodger Stadium at Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles, into which the Dodgers – perhaps the quintessential urban neighborhood team - moved in 1962, after leaving historic Ebbets Field in Brooklyn in 1958 (see description below). In the case of Dodger Stadium, the challenge will be to reinvent the classic modernist facility and its dramatic site as a more urban place, better integrated with the life of a huge and rapidly changing metropolis and with its surrounding neighborhoods. In the case of Pawtucket, the challenge will be to use minor league baseball as a source of urban energy and identity in an underdeveloped post-industrial New England mill town. In both cases, the ability to work at multiple scales simultaneously from big-scale infrastructure and structure to the details of interior and exterior public spaces, informed by materials, visual relationships, lighting and landscape, will the crucial to developing successful projects.
The studio will visit Los Angeles and other Major League parks on the west coast, as well as several newer minor league parks in the south, during travel week at the beginning of the semester, and will visit Pawtucket and other east coast venues on day trips throughout the term. The focus of these visits will be not simply the architecture of the stadiums but most importantly the elements that give them life beyond baseball and the catalytic network of spatial and productive relationships they construct with the surrounding city. The game of baseball will also be a primary subject of consideration in all its spatial, cultural and political dimensions, as a highly structured experience, as a business and increasingly global brand, and as a source of both identity, competition and even conflict within and among cities.