2022 AIA CA DESIGN AWARDS
merit award & special commendation: design for water
Architect: HKS Architects, Inc.
Project Location: Inglewood, California
Photographers: Kevin Korczyk and Nick Lehoux
Home to NFL games for the Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams, SoFi Stadium plays host to sporting events, live performances, opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Olympics and community events. An outdoor plaza ties the stadium and adjacent YouTube Theater together. The stadium is open-air, while fully covered by a transparent roof that opens and closes on demand. Cutting-edge technologies are integrated throughout, including the dual-sided Infinity video board that redefines the live entertainment experience.
”A catalyst in a blighted area – it is so much more than a football stadium. From the landscape approach to the master plan knitting it into the community, it is very successful.” – 2022 Design Awards Jury
SoFi’s design is informed by Southern California’s industry, architecture, lifestyle, climate, geography and landscape, combining to create an authentic Southern California expression. The sweeping coastline and the beauty and strength of the Pacific Ocean contribute to the clean and dramatic curves of the stadium’s unmistakable architecture that reflects the region’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle. The stadium’s translucent roof, seating bowl, concourses and landscape were sculpted to create an outdoor feel while providing the flexibility of a traditional domed stadium.
At the start of the project, Inglewood had a troubling crime rate, high unemployment, failing school system. By 2011, the city was on the path to bankruptcy. It was a city devoid of hope with no aspiration for the future,” said Butts, Inglewood Mayor. This year, fewer murders have been committed in Inglewood than in Santa Monica or Pasadena. Unemployment dropped from 17.5 percent in 2011 to 4.7 percent in 2019. Finally, this largely minority community of 110,000 is climbing back to its feet. HKS supported community outreach programs in the neighborhood including ACE Mentorship at a local high school.
The site was adapted from the Hollywood Park Racetrack, an increasingly obsolete land use regarded as unsustainable, SoFi Stadium serves as linchpin for a major urban campus that restores and revitalizes natural ecosystems. Limits to ecological restoration — due to climate change, impermeability, heat island, and air/water quality issues — led to non-traditional solutions, including cultivating a Mediterranean biome to restore habitat. Characterized by wide arrays of plantings and shrubs suited to hot, dry summers and frost-free winters, the Mediterranean biome offers many native species and convergent evolution (e.g., trees to adapted to survive wildfires). In keeping with its Southern California environs, SoFi stadium’s landscape includes highly diverse, low-maintenance plant ecologies with 5,000 trees including desert Palm and Joshua trees, sycamores found along arroyos, and mountain evergreens. Arranged in various microclimate zones around the stadium park, this rich biodiverse habitat serves regional warblers, monarch butterflies, honeybees and hundreds of other species along with shrubs, groundcovers, wetlands and meadows. Supporting wildlife and human ecosystems, a 6-acre lake treats stormwater and serves irrigation needs. Together, these ecological services build resilience and will increase as the landscape matures, creating a public resource and veritable museum of the biome’s diversity.
The 300-acre site uses holistic strategies for water conservation. The parks and open spaces are performative landscapes collecting, filtering pollutants, and reusing about 75% of total stormwater through rolling arroyos, bioswales, underground cisterns, and a 6-acre lake. The first lake in California to mix stormwater with reclaimed water, and the first-ever filtration system cleaning water before reuse, while supporting the community as a public amenity. California officials have lauded the conservation of drinking water, offsetting potable water demands by 75 acre-feet per year in year one, only allowing reclaimed water for irrigation, and an exemplar of “advancing environmentally sustainable communities.”
The Hollywood Park site was secured by Kroenke and its development partners prior to HKS’ selection and was “build-ready” for the project.The development mix was conceived to capitalize on the three venues – SoFi stadium, YouTube Theater, and American Airlines Plaza – to capture the best tenants (including the relocated NFL Network) and world-class events. The connection of the venues has created operational efficiencies which increases flexibility, number of days programmed and reduced floor area. The development is one of the largest private investments in southern California history (also first in the modern sports era) and is a transformational resource for the City of Inglewood, without the need to divert public finding away from other vital programs. The masterplan and project were designed to lift the real estate in a city that had lagged the region for decades. The city has already seen this lift with the Forum renovation and reopening (17,500 capacity) and the relocation of the Clippers NBA team with a new arena. The private funding allowed the team to focus their efforts on the vision for the building, which is to have a 100+ year lifespan. Through ROI and Life Cycle Analysis, we were able to get higher level of finishes and materials through out the building.
The original project brief called for a multi-purpose venue guaranteed to host events regardless of climatic conditions. While this requirement would traditionally demand a fully conditioned enclosed space, we challenged this assumption and created a passively ventilated open-air stadium that protects patrons from the elements. Capitalizing on Southern California’s mild climate, the open-air stadium allows natural ventilation throughout the bowl, while the fritted ETFE canopy, comprised of more than 300 panels, reduces solar heat gain and provides a skylit environment. This includes 46 operable panels that can open to maximize airflow and relieve air movement during differing wind patterns to create a dynamic and systematic approach to handle a variety of climatic conditions. The panels feature a 65% frit pattern to reduce solar gain. We collaborated with RWDI, which used thermodynamic modeling to evaluate wind direction, temperature, and velocity to design the bowl and roof shell. This ensured the stadium form is optimized to promote air movement throughout the venue. Ceiling fans are used throughout the open-air concourses – only interior clubs, suites, and back of house spaces are conditioned. The canopy provides shade to exterior spaces that in-turn reduces the heat-island effect.All concourse circulation spaces are naturally lit. The canyons, roof, and seating bowl combine to create a series of passively ventilated and naturally lit amenity spaces. Vegetated canyons create naturally lit outdoor club environments, despite being 50’ below grade.
Its open-air concourses create continuous views inward to the field and outward to the city to seamlessly merge the stadium’s landscape architecture with the surrounding Inglewood community and beyond. The setting removes boundaries and invites recreation, gatherings and outdoor life. Lake Park, which is open to the public daily, promotes walking with a continuous path that circumnavigates the waterfall feature. Along the path, informational didactics teach about the diversity of California plant typologies, unifying the patrons with nature. Visitors can also relax on a lakefront deck or in seating sculpted within elegant concrete planters. The stadium was designed as a series of experiences, each quadrant representing unique food options from various Los Angeles neighborhoods. This encourages fans to get up, walk around, and sample the different offerings. Those options include a variety of healthy choices including vegetarian, vegan, paleo and plant-based items. The covered American Airlines Plaza hosts food markets and other community events. SoFi Stadium has already been used for food drives, a voting center, and a COVID testing and vaccination site.
Constructed primarily of concrete and steel, SoFi Stadium is built to last for 100 years. Other material selections include:-Long-span cable truss roof structure reduced steel tonnage required for roof structure by more than 30%. -ETFE-UV impervious material that allows for daylighting while reducing solar heat gain. 30+ year lifespan and 100% recyclable. ETFE is both easily recyclable and long-lasting, holding up to extreme climatic conditions. It is cost-effective to produce, and has a low-energy manufacturing and transportation process, thanks in large part to its light weight.-Aluminum panels – 60+ years lifespan with custom finish that reflects changing sunlight colors throughout the day. Aluminum is 100% recyclable.-Lime cement plaster – cement plaster that uses lime instead of Portland cement as a base. Lime plaster is more flexible, less prone to cracking, and the manufacturing of it is better for the environment.-Concrete used a high-quality granite aggregate imported (by water) from British Columbia. This resulted in a significant embodied carbon savings, even when the transportation emissions were included. The aggregate allowed significant reductions to cement content from baseline mixes, which used softer local aggregates. Cement is responsible for 90% of the embodied carbon of concrete, so cement reduction achieves significant embodied carbon reductions.
The proximity to the Inglewood seismic fault line also necessitated designing the stadium to withstand earthquakes. Working with our engineering partners, we structurally separated the roof structure from the other project components to allow each to respond independently during a seismic event. This means that the stadium bowl, the performance venue, the roof, and the plaza can move without fear of them interacting with the roof structure. The project required a large excavation, which has a tall retaining wall. The seating bowl structure sits on the base of the excavation and is independent of the retaining wall. The roof structure spans across the bowl and is seismically independent, albeit with some gravity support from the bowl structure. CHANGEAlthough the primary use of SoFi Stadium is for NFL football games, it is designed to accommodate other sports and entertainment typologies as well as community organizations/ events. In addition to the upcoming Super Bowl, College Football National Championship Game, the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the 2028 Summer Olympics and several other headline events, the venue’s flexibility will also allow for other activities such as soccer, professional wrestling, esports, award shows, the NFL Draft and more, all in a setting that we call ‘authentic sustainability.’ And that flexibility provides a permanent uplifting social and economic environment for the city of Inglewood, Southern California, and the world.We researched 100 years of climatic data and future projections to develop a passive design strategy at SoFi Stadium – open concourses, landscape terraces, operable panels, perforated shell, and ETFE canopy create a passively ventilated and naturally lit environment. The project’s infrastructure was designed for the ultimate flexibility for the owner, operator, and users. The four key elements of the larger district – SoFi stadium, American Airlines Plaza, Performance Venue, and Lake Park – can function independently or as cohesive unit depending on the event.
The embedding of the structure 100-feet below ground, created an opportunity to transform the fan experience. Upon arrival, visitors are greeted with an elegant profile, but they do not experience the stadium’s entire scale until passing through the landscaped canyons – the ultimate discovery moment.The American Airlines Plaza, Lake Park and other public spaces encourage visitors to learn about the diverse regional landscapes, as well as providing opportunities to improve their well-being by walking, jogging or simply meditatingA 21st century evolution of media technology, the stadium’s circular videoboard creates a more immersive experience and provides a canvas for a myriad of content including fantasy stats, other sporting events and news.Project information, including the contractor and fabricator who could advise on the financial and supply chain impact of proposed modifications to the Model of Record. To meet the challenge of communicating the design intent and ensuring that the stadium would be built as designed, the architects worked with the California State Architecture Board to develop a digital authentication tool and data repository that supported a direct-to-fabrication workflow. This now-patented application allowed all stakeholders to access Another major feature of SoFi Stadium is the videoboard. It is the largest in sports at 2.2 million pounds and 120-yards long. It is also the first-ever dual-sided 4K LED display system – displaying images on both sides and making it readable from every seat.All 80 million LED pixels can be uniquely or congruently programmed with specialized content. A state-of-the-art audio system with more than 260 speakers delivers a wattage equivalence of 1,500 home theater systems. Together, they produce a unique experience for fans who can watch live action, instant replays, get real-time fantasy stats, or even watch different programming.
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