Diamonds of the West - Page 3

How modernist architecture of the mid-century impacted the look, openness and siting of California's big-league ballparks
Three of the highly praised ballpark designs that originated from the Kansas City-based HOK Sport firm: Camden Yards in Baltimore (top), Oracle Park in San Francisco (middle), Petco Park in San Diego (above).

Two California stadiums that Smith is not alone in terming "the offspring of Camden" soon followed, and they are universally recognized among the country's elite 'retro' ballparks.

Once the 1950s answer to the Giants' need for a new home, Candlestick by century's end had aged from being the solution to being the problem. Once again, in the early 1990s, the Giants made plans to skip town (this time to Tampa/St. Petersburg) until being stabilized by new ownership that promised a privately built ballpark, which opened in 2000.

With better siting this time around, San Francisco Bay was transformed from an icy drawback to a beautiful and whimsical asset at what is now called Oracle Park. Including his admiration for McCovey Cove—where right field home runs sometimes swim—Goldberger tabs the charming red-brick structure in China Basin as "one of the best" in the sport and "surely one of the most gracefully integrated into an urban setting."

"Oracle Park, like [Denver's] Coors Field," he writes, "showed that under the right conditions, a 21st century ballpark could be as fully integrated into urban life as any early ballpark had been, and that the traditions of baseball had not been fully engulfed in the maw of suburbia."

New York architectural critic Paul Goldberger takes a swing at baseball park architecture in his new book, Ballpark.

Like the Giants, the Padres enlisted HOK Sport to design their new stadium, Petco Park. And in the manner of parks in Baltimore and Denver, whose design incorporated existing buildings, the team of HOK and Albuquerque architect Antoine Predock built a superb 'retro' ballpark attached to an old Western Metal Supply warehouse on the south edge of San Diego's prime entertainment neighborhood.

"They were trying to take the relative success of the Gaslamp Quarter and extend it," Bangham comments. Admiring the sandstone-lined terraces and public park that descends into the ballpark, he added, "Petco is great because it's very Californian."

Oakland will be hoping to extend the state's ballpark winning streak in the coming years, if it builds the proposed field at Howard Terminal near Jack London Square. A preliminary design by the Bjarke Ingels Group also includes an 'elevated park' sloping down into the outfield and providing that critical inside-outside element of modernist architecture.

That's important, because that's how we do baseball here in the Golden State.


Photography: Jon SooHoo, Thomas Hawk, Wally Gobetz, Travis Wise, James Vaughan; and courtesy Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Smart Destinations, Joycie Fickett collection, Rico Tee Archive

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