The Washington Nationals have unveiled their plans for a new stadium and the Washington Times’ Deborah K. Dietsch is less than impressed.
From its inception, the architecture of the new Washington Nationals ballpark was meant to be the antithesis of Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It was to be “fresh, exciting and unique to the District” in the words of Allen Lew, CEO of the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission. It was to be boldly contemporary, not timidly old-fashioned in design.
Given those expectations, the ballpark design by architects HOK Sport and D.C.-based Devrouax & Purnell, unveiled at a press conference yesterday, disappoints. The 41,000-seat stadium is engulfed by a dull ensemble of blocky, precast-concrete-and-glass structures that would look at home on K Street. This is retro architecture that harkens back to the 1970s. No strong, memorable image stands out.
The new ballpark does what a lot of well-meaning buildings do in Washington. It respects the L’Enfant plan for the city and recedes into the background. On the positive side, this approach means it is not a big bowl surrounded by a sea of parking lots like RFK Stadium.
Just like HOK Sport’s recent ballpark designs, the concourses will be sheathed in glass with views of the field from every level and glimpses of the river. Atop its structure, sunscreens made of perforated metal are meant to create a recognizable profile but seem hardly noticeable. They, too, appear to be a design throwback to the 1960s and 1970s.
Like Camden Yards and so many of HOK Sport’s previous designs, the Nationals’ new ballpark is a hit in the area of urban sensitivity. But in terms of architectural excitement, this design strikes out.