ARO Designs a Stadium in Cincinnati

People / Places / March 8, 2016

At the University of Cincinnati, Architecture Resource Office (ARO) has joined a signature roster of internationally known architects who’ve designed buildings on campus.

Among them: Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, Peter Eisenman, Bernard Tschumi, Thom Mayne, Pei Cobb Freed, Moore Ruble Yudell, and Frank Gehry.

“It’s a petting zoo of architecture,” says ARO founding principal Stephen Cassell. “We’re the first new building in a while.”

It’s no small project – and no less than a complete renovation of the 1924 stadium at the heart of campus. But it didn’t begin that way.

“We’d started with bathrooms and concessions and luxury boxes,” he says. “Halfway through that, they asked us to renovate and upgrade the entire stadium – it went from 35,000 to 40,000 seats.”

Where there once were small facilities for the press, now there are new luxury boxes plus seating and full facilities for media and coaches – all the modern amenities that bring the stadium up to 2015-16 standards.

The project was not without constraints. The campus is densely populated architecturally, and public space is at a premium – so even the stadium grounds are affected. “The field is open – people can run around in it and play catch,” he says. “The campus architects was stressing that, and that it not block views into public space.”

So the architects lifted it up onto a plinth to  preserve the public character of the campus. Still, the stadium backs up to a Gwathmey building a mere seven feet away. “It was a tight fit, with inches in any direction to fit it in,” he says. “So it has a strong relationship with the adjacent buildings.”

A heavy-duty “X” brace structure that carries its way through the building also became its architectonic – expressing itself both inside and out. “On the exterior you can read it through the glazing, and on the interior the structure itself starts to help shape a pretty dynamic set of spaces.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the project – developed in collaboration with architect of record Heery International – was its schedule. “We started in 2013 at the beginning of summer and finished in time for the first game of season in 2015,” he says.

Because, after all, what good’s a stadium if you can’t see the opening kickoff?

Photography: Copyright Jeremy Bittermann

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.




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