SPORTS: Space Cowboys (2008)
Assume that one day humans overcome physics' celestial speed limit and head to the stars. What shape will commercial space travel take?
If predicting the future were as simple as extrapolating from the present, we could make a few educated guesses: Checking a bag will cost you $1.7 million; you will be scanned by a jaded, cranky robot before you board; and your personal hibernation pod will be situated immediately in front of one cradling a colicky baby.
And the spaceport you fly from? It will probably resemble the new billion-dollar-plus Cowboys stadium rising on the Arlington landscape. It's certainly big enough and packed with enough gee-whiz gadgetry.
When we met Bryan Trubey, design principal for the stadium with HKS Architects Sports and Entertainment Group, we intended to talk about its futuristic, high-tech touches. The stadium's two monumental arches, for instance, weigh 3,255 tons each and span 1,290 feet, rising 320 feet above the playing field—high enough to hold the Statue of Liberty upright. The arches will support the world's largest domed roof, which will cover about 661,000 square feet and include twin-paneled doors that retract to reveal a 105,000-square-foot opening that mimics the opening in Texas Stadium, left there so God can still watch his favorite team. Massive, clear 180-foot-wide doors cap the end zones. A canted glass exterior wall floods the interior with light. The world's largest video boards hang 110 feet above the field.
And so on. The tally proves that the stadium will be, as promised, one of a kind. But what the numbers don't capture is its sleek, futuristic beauty. For all its massiveness, the dome's sweeping arches and canted glass give it the air of a spacecraft. In artist's renderings, the dome appears to be waiting to leap into flight.
That's a long way from the industrial, men-at-work feel of today's Texas Stadium—but then so are today's Cowboys. And that's the point. For Trubey, designing the Cowboys' home was a process that began with defining the team's brand.
"My thing has always been context," he says. "For me, it was never about what my personal expression would be and applying that on every project I get so that I have a branded look. "
That becomes clear when you compare the Cowboys' stadium plans with the recently opened Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, another HKS project on which Trubey was design principal. Where the Pokes' home is a sleek, modernistic ellipse, the Colts' new $720 million digs, with its red-brick exterior, gable roof and exterior trusses, have the air of a Midwestern factory, evoking that city's blue-collar manufacturing history.
For the Cowboys, Trubey and the HKS team had to look beyond the obvious, namely, the team's name. Anyone familiar with the hip, money-making enterprise that Jerry Jones and family have assembled knows that the team that Terrell Owens calls home isn't about Stetsons, piped shirts and pointy boots. The Cowboys are a world icon for sport, says Trubey, whose family has lived in Oak Cliff for a century. Like the New York Yankees and Great Britain's Manchester United, Dallas Cowboys is a name recognizable internationally.
"When companies want to project to the international audience...they choose when they build something to project an image in a very progressive, modern, edgy way," Trubey says. "And so that led us toward a modernist expression for the stadium itself. We wanted the building to project all those characteristics...all under the context of modern architecture."
The Jones family was also committed to building "an important piece of civic architecture," he says, and were willing to commit the money to create it (as were voters in Arlington, which will kick in $100 million toward building the dome.)
Art and marketing. Corporate branding, modernism and football's grungy, high-tech glitz. All of it is blended together and brought to life on a gargantuan scale to create a vision that looks distinctly toward the future while keeping one foot in tradition. You can't get much more "Dallas" than that, and the fact that the stadium will open next year in a suburb midway between Dallas and Fort Worth somehow just seems that much more appropriate.
"Sports teams globally, when they build a building, they're not like a retailer. They don't have 1,500 chances to get it right," Trubey says. "The building will be the dominant physical expression of the team worldwide, especially with a brand like Cowboys."
It could very well be the dominant expression of Texas in the world. Rome has its Coliseum, the icon of Roman power for two millennia. We ask Trubey if he felt extra pressure from the idea that he could be not just creating a really big building—and helping spend more than a billion bucks—but defining a culture for centuries.
Trubey modestly demurs. He knows he's been blessed with the chance to work on major projects in a profession he loves. He emphasizes the role of patrons like the Joneses in supporting massive projects such as the stadium.
"Well-maintained," he says simply, "the building could last indefinitely."Patrick Williams
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