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We’re just a few short weeks past the latest Super Bowl. Some of you watch it for the game, some for the halftime show, and some for the commercials. I personally didn’t feel strongly about either team—I was just hoping for a good game that wasn’t over by the second quarter. To that end, the game didn’t disappoint.

The architect in me, however, was interested in the stadium. On television, SoFi stadium looks like any other stadium out there; one hundred yards of playing field with goal posts at each end, completely surrounded by tens of thousands of screaming fans, watching twenty-two players battle for sixty minutes to get the Lombardi trophy (and the trip to Disney World). The view on TV didn’t do the facility justice—there’s way more to it…

Most professional sports stadiums are large behemoths surrounded by vast swaths of parking that tend to take over the area of the city where they’re located. SoFi is different in that it’s the centerpiece of a larger development – Hollywood Park. In addition to the stadium is the YouTube theater, which is connected to the stadium by the American Airlines Plaza; all of which are covered by a single sweeping roof structure. Other development on the site includes roughly 25 acres of public parks, green space, and a lake. 

Adding to the complexity of an already challenging building is the fact that with its proximity to LAX, there are height restrictions imposed by the FAA. At first glance, this would seem like a project killer. Stadiums need to be tall to provide room for an adequate amount of seating to help justify the project cost, right? Normally, yes, that’s the way it’s always been done. I’m sure it would’ve been easy to say “It’s not possible. Find a new site and then we’ll talk.”  Luckily, that wasn’t the case. Some good, old-fashioned out of the box thinking found a way to meet the challenge—by burying the stadium in the ground.

Placing the playing field roughly 100 feet below the exterior grade limited the height of the structure to meet the FAA requirements, while still providing a stadium worthy of the Super Bowl (and upcoming Olympic games). Much thought was put into the design to ensure that while being in the ground, the stadium doesn’t feel cavernous. This was accomplished primarily by means of a semi-transparent roof structure that is self-supporting and not connected to any walls, allowing both natural light and ocean breezes to permeate the space.

I can guess what you’re thinking. Why is a firm that has no large stadiums in their portfolio spending so much time talking about a stadium? Besides the fact that as an architect, I geek out on such things, there is a larger point to make. It illustrates the value of Architects and their design teams. Positioned firmly at the intersection of art and science, Architects are uniquely qualified to provide the creative, out-of-the-box problem-solving that allows difficult obstacles to be overcome. This lays the groundwork for a building that meets client’s needs, represents them as an organization, and amplifies their mission and vision, giving them a home that’s uniquely theirs.

In the words of one of my architecture professors, “They’re not obstacles, they’re opportunities.”

Mike Wittig
Senior Project Leader | Architect

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