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Q&A: Ellerbe Becket
Ellerbe Becket's managing principal Stephen J. Duethman on the Barclays Center and the latest design trends
Ellerbe Becket will highlight its work for the Barclays Center at Stadia Design & Technology Expo – where are you with that project right now?
On the design side, we are completing work associated with the interior of the arena, specifically materials selection and signage. The construction is well underway, with construction of foundations, steel erection and the start of precast seating treads and risers scheduled for April this year. Also the fabrication of thousands of pieces of weathering steel is ongoing. These pieces will form the exterior façade of the facility. The biggest challenge on this project was to gain access to the entire site to continue with excavation and construction of foundations. Numerous legal challenges and the demolition of structures on the site hampered the ability to construct the project in a fluid sequence. But all parties are working together to overcome these hurdles and construction is progressing nicely towards an opening date in autumn 2012.
What are some of the unique features you are designing into the Barclays Center?
The exterior façade design is certainly unique in terms of the material used (weathering steel) and the form that results, including a 25m cantilevered canopy at the main entry plaza at the junction of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues. The canopy will have a large oculus within that will display a dynamic marquee to advertise current and upcoming events. Inside the venue, the aim is to evoke the streets of Brooklyn and the industrial history of the area by continuing the weathering steel context, for example at the face of the concession stands and in the ‘ribs’ of lighting that will be suspended along the path of the concourses. The lighting and materials will convey the nightlife and feel of Brooklyn. The offering of premium amenities and clubs is quite diverse, with choices for both the general patron and those who want a truly premium experience. Besides the standard-sized luxury suites, there will be loft suites, loge boxes and club seating, each with their own package of amenities.
How is new technology, particularly digital technology, impacting on your ideas?
Digital technology played an important role both in the development of the exterior and interior design. In addition to the dynamic signage of the oculus at the main plaza, the internal entry plaza will use the latest technology to convey sponsorships, information and opportunities to the patrons as they enter the facility. Additionally, the event space and seating bowl are designed so that patrons at the exterior plaza will have a view into the seating bowl through a large corner vomitory and will be able to see the centre-hung scoreboard as they approach the entrance. The digital technology will engage visitors before they even walk through the front door and will offer a truly unique experience.
What are some of the other hot trends shaping stadia and arena design at present?
With the current economic downturn, development of the right mix of premium amenities continues to drive the programmatic elements of arena and stadia design, with more emphasis on engaging the general patron in the opportunity to enjoy these amenities. We are finding more and more past and new clients who want to re-invent the premium mix in their facilities to keep up with the desires of their patrons. What used to be a market focused on premium suites and club seats is now engaged in turning some of that inventory into loge or box seating that can be enjoyed on a per/event basis, along with fan interactive zones. As with Barclays Center, technology will continue to play a large role in how sponsorships and naming rights are promoted, and how facilities service patrons in their seats or at food and beverage opportunities throughout the facility.
Where do you see the most potential going forward?
With many of the professional leagues being built-out in terms of new facilities in the USA, I see a great opportunity on the domestic side for renovating facilities that are anywhere from five to 20 years old in order to keep up with the changing dynamic of the revenue stream, and also with a focus on how they can impact the districts where they reside in terms of serving as catalysts for broader entertainment and retail districts. A perfect example of this is in Minneapolis, where we are working with the Minnesota Timberwolves and government officials to expand on the opportunities at Target Center. With AECOM’s presence in emerging markets throughout the world, we also see great opportunities for the development of new sports and entertainment venues in those markets, specifically Asia and the Middle East.
What’s your dream project?
I have had many opportunities over the past 18 years on some really important projects that have impacted communities and college campuses. But the Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards is truly a spectacular opportunity to impact the city of Brooklyn and surrounding communities, and in terms of what it offers in arena design, it will raise the bar for state-of-the-art venues.
View Ellerbe Becket’s latest projects in the New Projects Pavilion, Stand numbers 1926 and 2024 at Stadia Design & Technology Expo 2011 in Los Angeles on 12-14 April, click here for more information.