NOMA-Nominated: Banc of California Stadium by Gensler Los Angeles
Barbara Bouza, co-managing director of Gensler’s Los Angeles office, explains how her firm’s project served the local community as well as the city at large.
NOMA-Nominated is a new, ongoing Metropolis series that spotlights exceptional projects nominated by National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) chapter leadership. This project was named by Lance Collins, current president of SoCalNOMA and a director of Partner Energy in Los Angeles.
When it opened in April last year, Los Angeles’s Banc of California Stadium offered an arena for an atypical professional American sport: soccer. It’s a pastime that’s becoming increasingly popular across the country, especially for Angelenos, many of whom have cultural connections to soccer-loving nations around the world.
The 22,000-seat project, accessible by the Metro Expo Line and part of an economic revitalization plan for the Figueroa Corridor, was the first open air stadium to be built in L.A. since 1962. Gensler, who designed the project for the major league Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC), took full advantage of the outdoors, laying out the seating in shallow terraces to encourage a sense of proximity with the action on the field (the move is described as “European-style”). The biggest architectural gesture is the siting of the stadium itself: a soaring, open canopy of ETFE frames cinematic views to Downtown L.A. But from the start, the stadium was also conceived of as a draw for the community even outside of soccer season. It offers 37,000 square feet of new development, including multicultural eateries, a restaurant, and retail; it also accommodates additional programming like concerts and local sports practice.
For Barbara Bouza, co-managing director and principal and leader of Gensler’s global Health & Wellness practice, the project is emblematic of the firm’s L.A. office’s dedication to community-based design. As the 2019 president of AIA Los Angeles and a member of SoCalNOMA, she is a leader in the city’s architecture community. “As an African-American woman, I’m in such a small, small minority of my profession,” she says. “We make up 0.3 percent—so not even a percent—of the architecture profession. I want to make sure I can be a positive example for students, because we’re looking at how we diversify the pipeline of the profession… so it can reflect the communities we serve. That’s a passion of mine.”
Here, Bouza discusses what Gensler took into account in designing the stadium, and how she sees the project in the context of the local community.
Soccer represents such a melting pot. To most of the world outside the U.S., soccer is a global sport. You don’t need to speak the same language, but you play by the same rules on the field. In L.A., and specifically along the Figueroa Corridor, there is such a diverse community, with different incomes, races, languages, food, and art. Soccer becomes a unifying activity. It brings everybody together.
When you’re sitting in the stadium, you know you’re in Los Angeles. There’s an engagement at the street level, and then there’s engagement with the city once you’re in the stadium. You’re not like, “I could be anywhere in the USA.”
I think with any project there’s an opportunity to figure out how it’s going to benefit the community as a whole. I give the client a lot of credit. They had the mindset from day one that this is the city’s stadium. We asked, where is the ultimate benefit to the community? At Gensler, we look at a broad, holistic spectrum that covers human wellbeing. In practice, health and wellness means everything from wellbeing in the work environment, to the integration of sports, up to clinical and healthcare spaces. So how does a project have a bigger purpose? The stadium was a catalyst for jobs in the local community, and LAFC made a point of hiring from the local community for construction jobs and employment at the stadium.
We worked with city leaders and members of the local community at multiple levels. For example, when you look at the scale of the stadium, it’s very intimate compared with other professional sports stadiums. Everybody’s engaged because of the way it’s designed. There are seats that are very close to the field. The design team studied FIFA house guidelines and tried to think outside the box and stretch the boundaries. The proximity of seats to the field is tighter than what you typically see.
We worked with the 3252 [the Independent Supporters Union for the Los Angeles Football Club of Major League Soccer], what you would call a fan club, and they came in to some design meetings. They had a big influence in terms of how the stadium was laid out and what the fan experience would be. They have two areas where they stand and lead cheers, so they really became the 12th player on the field, so to speak.
You need to have people on the team who really understand what’s important to the city, because this affects our community. Those ultimately become the best projects.
—Barbara Bouza, Gensler, as told to Metropolis.
Client: Los Angeles Football Club
Developer: Legends Project Development
Architect: Gensler (Ron Turner, Jonathan Emmett, Eric Randolph, Demetra Thornton, and team)
Landscape Architect: Studio-MLA
Structural Engineer: Thornton Tomasetti
MEP Engineer: ME Engineers
Civil Engineer: KPFF
Lighting Consultant: First Circle Design
Audio Visual Consultant: Idibri
General Contractor: PCL Construction
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