Cactus-Inspired Stadium Does Not Raise Hairs with Locals

Event: Films and Conversations with the Architects: Peter Eisenman: University of Phoenix Stadium for the Arizona Cardinals. Producer: Edgar B. Howard Director: Tom Piper
Location: Center for Architecture, 02.12.09
Speakers: Peter Eisenman, FAIA — Founder and Principal, Eisenman Architects; Suzanne Stephens — Deputy Editor, Architectural Record
Organizers: Checkerboard Film Foundation; AIANY
Sponsors: Peter Jay Sharp Foundation

University of Phoenix Stadium, designed by Eisenman Architects with HOK Sport.

Photo: David Sundberg/ESTO. Copyright Arizona Cardinals

The University of Phoenix Stadium was not designed to create change; nor was it intended to leave an overwhelming impression, explained its architect Peter Eisenman, FAIA, at a recent discussion and film screening about the stadium at the Center for Architecture. Eisenman, in conjunction with HOK Sport, set out to develop a “powerful symbol of community for Glendale,” rather than a “canonical” or “great” structure. The short film, produced by Edgar B. Howard and directed by Tom Piper, highlighted how Glendale itself inspired the stadium’s design.

Glendale residents value agriculture and the outdoors, and Eisenman looked to the surrounding landscape — particularly the indigenous barrel cactus — to inform his design. With double curvature and a hovering skin, the building bends in on the east, stretches out on the west, and retracts to open to the sky above. The metal skin reflects the surrounding environment and the glass slots between the panels provide interior views of the horizon. With the first fully retractable natural grass playing field in North America, the stadium floor can also accommodate public conferences and trade shows — a need that Eisenman discovered while listening to local residents.

Although the University of Phoenix Stadium may appear to be a departure from his theoretical work, Eisenman believes every building is open to interpretation. During the discussion with Architectural Record Deputy Editor Suzanne Stephens after the screening, he used the City of Culture of Galicia, currently under construction in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, as an example. He explained that projects are made for interpretation. “I don’t know what makes great, or good, or canonical. It just happens.” For the people of Glendale, the stadium has been all of those things, along with being the strong community attraction it was intended to be, Eisenman concluded.