I am a die-hard Minnesota Vikings fan. There it is, out in the open. I said it. I haven’t missed a game since I was nine years old. I frequently travel to Minnesota and various other locales not Las Vegas just to see my favorite team play. During football season, please do not bother me on a Sunday morning; I will be at home, sitting nervously in front of my beautiful high-definition television completely engrossed in Vikings football. (Want to know a secret? I even run a Minnesota Vikings blog that has become quite popular! Go ahead, check it out, you know you want to.)
What does this have to do with Architecture? Why do I care?
Both are fair questions… But I do have a reason for bringing my own personal fanaticism to this here SH Architecture blog. Recently (more like a couple months ago), the design for the Vikings new stadium was unveiled. The excitement of my two favorite things (Architecture and the Vikings, in no particular order, mind you…) was almost too much to handle!
Naturally, on the site I help run, I just had to provide my very expert opinion on the new Vikings new playground. And to bring it full circle, that is why this is here.
[Below is my own, personal, analysis and opinion of the Minnesota Vikings stadium as of May 13, 2013. I would like to note that SH Architecture is in no way affiliated with the design of this building. The stadium was designed by HKS, inc. and the Vikings Stadium Consortium and the opinions hereafter are mine and do not represent the views of SH Architecture. The original post of this article can be read here and more information on the stadium can be found here.]
It’s pretty awesome that we got to watch the unveiling today of the stadium where our Minnesota Vikings will be playing for many years to come. Think about that for a second… Just a couple years ago the idea of a new stadium seamed unattainable. Today, we’re talking about how big the monitors are going to be and exactly how many toilets will be provided.
I think we all just need to take that in for a moment.
Good? Okay, let’s move on.
I wanted to outline some of the details of the new stadium, provide some pretty-picture renderings and give a bit of my own personal opinion. (I have an education in Architecture, so my opinion matters. Not really, though…)
- We Americans adore our TV screens. So much so that one of the new stadium design’s first features discussed in detail was its brand new, humongous monitors at each end of the stadium. I don’t remember the exact square footage stated but it was of some astronomical amount. On top of that, there are also two levels of video ribbons that wrap the upper levels. And if that wasn’t enough, there will be roughly 1,200 TVs located throughout the facility so you can see what’s happening wherever you are. Is that enough pixels for everyone out there?
- The technology doesn’t stop there… It was also mentioned that you will be able to interact with and within the new facility at a ‘micro’ level. Or, in other words, you’ll be able to do some cool stuff from your iPhone 9. (I think Apple will be somewhere in that range by the time this thing opens up.)
- “Remove snow from the roof.” Apparently this was a big design factor for HKS… Not sure why. Doesn’t snow just melt? What’s the big deal…? Seriously though, it’s obvious the environment, climate and the history of the Minnesota area played a big role in the form of the stadium. I’ve heard fans screaming for some sort of integration of an iconic Vikings ship into the design of the stadium. That sort of thing just isn’t going to happen anymore. This isn’t the nineties and it’s not Las Vegas. Heck, even Las Vegas has gotten away from the literal interpretations of medieval times (The Excalibur) or Egyptian Pyramids (The Luxor)… Things are more interpretative now; abstract. There doesn’t need to be an actual Vikings ship within the facility in order for the stadium to read like that of the Minnesota Vikings. Right away, the design has a very ‘nautilus’ feel to it. This is largely due to the sharp angles of the roof and the humongous pivoting glass doors (the largest in the world) that visually suggest boat sails. The sharp angles of the roof also allow for easier ways to deal with snowfall while also creating an array of opportunities for natural light to find it’s way into the space.
- Which leads us to the roof. This has been the topic of much discussion. Is it retractable? Will it be open air and will the Vikings rejoin others in the black and blue division who are forced to play outside in the bone-aching low-temperatures and the snow of the Winter? Will it be a dome much like the Metrodome? In the end, HKS choose to do something somewhere in the middle of all that. A glass roof. Yes, I know… “A glass roof after what happened at the Metrodome?!” (My wife said the same thing…) But, I highly, highly doubt there will be any such problem here. Primarily because the transparent roof (located on the south side of the structure) is not, in fact, glass. Instead it is a material called ETFE, or Ethylene tetrafluoroethylene. ETFE is a transparent plastic that is known for being very durable and strong. This same material was used to build the famous Beijing National Aquatics Centre.
- The form of the new stadium was designed utilizing passive environmental design techniques to make the building more sustainable as well as comfortable for its inhabitants. The large pitched roofs create a loft space at the height of the stadium. We all know that hot air rises. The design will allow hot air to be gathered further away from the inhabitants of the stadium and released there. The general idea behind the stadium’s mechanical cooling system is that air will be blown down over the seating as cooler air will naturally find it’s way down. These types of techniques are very common in passive design and it’s good to see the Architects utilizing this sort of design. This combined with the natural lighting which should permeate most of the stadium due to it’s openness, on first glance, makes Minnesota’s new stadium a sustainable one. And it sounds like the building will attempt to become “LEED-certified.”
- The stadium will be integrated with the existing ‘sky-walk’ system.
- The main facade of the stadium will feature a large projection graphic. The rendering currently shows everyone’s favorite running back but, according to HKS, this image can be changed with ease to fit the particular event.
- The stadium features a huge steel truss at the peak of the pitched roofs which allows for the openness and transparency of the stadium. According to HKS, there will views of the field throughout the concourse.
- Another thing that set’s Minnesota’s Stadium apart is that it is “at grade.” Or, in other words, you don’t have to walk up to get into the stadium. The field/event will be below where you are when you come in. Upon entrance into the stadium you should immediately be at the lower concourse and have an immediate view of the field.
- While it was brushed over quickly in the stadium presentation, it does look like thought was put into how this giant new structure fits into the existing fabric of Downtown Minneapolis. There is an apparent axis from the stadium to the Sports District and Target field as well as a perpendicular axis to two adjacent parks. It is yet to be seen how the stadium integrates at a more ‘micro’ level, but as this is just a schematic design, it’s not surprising.
- Vikings.com points out that there will be a large plaza to the west for “game day, non-game day and seasonal public gatherings…”
- Restroom facilities weren’t discussed in detail but HKS did acknowledge them and noted that there would be an adequate supply.
- And finally, the stadium is roughly 1.6 million square feet, houses up to 73,000 seats and has seven levels.
Head on over to the Official Vikings website for more pictures of the new stadium design.
Adam and I were chatting while the first images of the new stadium were being released. His initial reaction was very much like mine. “It looks like a huge glass cathedral for our Purple Jesus.” That sums it up pretty well, don’t you think?
Really, though… On first glance, I wasn’t blown away by the form of the building. It came across a little clunky… a little bulky. Much of the presentation was about how the roof and the stadium overall was supposed to feel light and airy and that just wasn’t the first impression I got. That being said, like I mentioned above, to me, the stadium feels like some sort of giant ship. Just the way the roof slants and the highest point cantilevers out past everything else just seems very ‘Noah’s Arc” to me. It’s subtle enough that it’s not a giant ship in the stadium (a la Tampa Bay Buccaneers) yet still reads as “Minnesota Vikings,” which is a great thing.
Upon listening to the presentation, I started to understand a lot of the design decisions HKS made a little more and the design grew on me. I think they made a lot of solid choices about how the stadium works within the environment, climate, the existing fabric of the city as well as echoing some of the historic forms of Scandinavian architecture.
I really love the decision to implement the ETFE roof on one side of the building. This is a fantastic move as it will really open the space up while allowing natural daylight in without the hassle of direct sunlight. Excellent design decision there.
One of the things that bugs me slightly about the design is it’s massive scale at the human level. As you can see in the final image/rendering above, the structure is behemoth. I think the overall stadium and the absolutely enormous glass doors juxtaposed to the ant-sized pedestrians is a little telling. I think something needs to be done there to bring it down to earth and have some interaction at a human level. There may be some things they can do with monuments/statues and the like to allow people to interact face-to-face with something their size.
I like the decision to have two larger monitors at the ends of the stadium as opposed to having one enormous one floating over the middle. The latter would not work well with the open-concept of the stadium and I don’t like the idea of a humongous box dangling over our entire franchise.
I’d still like to see in more detail how the stadium really acts within the existing fabric of the city and what sort of things are immediately adjacent. From the renderings in the presentation, it looks like it’s just sort of placed there and surrounded by landscaping and parking. I know parking is important to many people but HKS was touting that the stadium would create a vibrant, diverse metropolitan area around the stadium and I’m just not seeing it yet.
I feel like the projection imagery (shown as Adrian Peterson in the renderings) could have been integrated a little better. Honestly, it kind of comes off as an afterthought – something that was thrown on there at the last second. My mind was set at ease a little bit when HKS explained it was a projection that could be adjusted as necessary, but still, it doesn’t come off as an integral part of the design.
Overall, I do like the design of the new stadium. There are a couple angles I’m not fond of visually but I really like what HKS has done and can’t wait to see it come to life.
Hopefully this little write up was enjoyable to read. This kind of stuff is what I do so the presentation tonight was particularly exciting to me. My hope is that I was able to provide a little detail/insight that you weren’t able to find elsewhere. Personally, I am just so happy that the Vikings are going to have a new place to call home in Minnesota. HKS may have been able to present a concrete box and I wouldn’t have been that upset. We’re finally, really getting our stadium!
What are your guys’ thoughts? Anything you don’t like particularly? Anything you love? What are some questions you still have? Anything not addressed in the presentation tonight that you’re still wondering about? Let us know – would love to hear from you guys.