This one’s out of left field. The Warriors announced today that the firm they’ll have design their waterfront arena is Snøhetta, a Norwegian firm. Snøhetta’s an interesting choice because according to Joe Lacob, they were chosen for their waterfront expertise. Snøhetta doesn’t have extensive sports venue experience, but they are doing one local project of note – the expansion of SF MOMA.
As far as waterfront buildings, the two most cited are the Oslo Opera House and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Alexandria, Egypt. Both are notable in how they seemingly “slide” into the sea adjacent to the buildings. Both of these venues are not arenas, obviously. What they are for Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are shining examples of how to make iconic venues on the water. That’s what they’re going for. Most arenas in the U.S. are utlitarian in nature, little more than concrete, steel, and glass boxes. If Lacob and Guber are trying reaching to attain Sydney Opera House (another Scandinavian-designed venue) status, they are to be applauded.
Making an arena truly iconic is no small task. Most arenas have façades consisting of repetitive patterns of cladding over concrete or glass and steel. Recent attempts to break up arenas into multiple spaces using additional exterior elements and different types of materials have had mixed results. From a distance, an arena is squat, not tall, and often slab-sided. No new renderings or sketches came with the press release. Nevertheless, I look forward to what Snøhetta has to offer. In particular, I hope that Snøhetta finds a way to accentuate the Bay and the SF skyline, as I suggested in May. In a town where just about anything can become instantly controversial, the Warriors’ arena concept is destined to provoke lots of discussion. I imagine that Lacob and Guber wouldn’t have it any other way.
Snøhetta won’t be alone in this endeavor. They’re partnering with AECOM, a huge design and management company that acquired sports architecture firm Ellerbe Becket in 2009. Ellerbe Becket worked on 14 NBA and NHL arenas over the last 20 years.