What makes a good stadium?

  • Updated: December 31, 2011 - 5:08 PM

Kurt Gough

If the Vikings ever get a new stadium, we all know what it will look like: a stadium. Unlike many civic buildings whose clever architects scorn outmoded ideas like "putting the front door where people expect it to be," stadiums usually end up looking like something a Roman citizen would recognize. Is that our fate? Let's find an architect and ask him.

Meet Kurt Gough, co-founder of Shelter, an architectural firm that's done houses, rehabbed Fargo's now-famed Donaldson Hotel. So: local boy?

"Born here and lived in Robbinsdale," Kurt says. "After college I moved to Baltimore." Slight cultural shift? "I got teased for my accent constantly. When I came back to the Twin Cites for a visit, the accent would thicken up and I'd get even more grief." Say you got an accent dere? Don't hear it, myself.

Anyway, after a career in the prop-and-set side of theater, he moved home to go to architecture school. What did he notice after his stint on the Eastern Seaboard?

"I haven't relinquished the term 'soda.' Never went back to 'pop.'" Blasphemer! Infidel!

But his return also reacquainted him with Minnesota civic involvement.

"It was radically different in Baltimore. It doesn't have many corporate headquarters. I was surprised at how hard it was to get companies to contribute to the arts. It's different here. Tyrone Guthrie picked right." Speaking of whom:

"I came up with a Tyrone quote when doing some research. He said that the city has this gem, this treasure of a river, and they don't know it yet. Someday, he said, they'll gravitate back to it, and that's where the Guthrie will be. He'd foreseen that the right place would be there someday."

And Gough's favorite local building? "Never thought about it until now, but the first thing that popped in my head was the Prudential Building -- now it's Target -- on I-394. I haven't been in it since I was a kid, but my grandpa worked there, and I have all these fond memories of Christmas parties and plays. When I drive past it now, I think it's more and more handsome."

It is a fine building, and like the best modernism, its modesty makes it wear well over time. Which brings us back to the stadium. Should we go for the usual usual, or try something outrageous and futuristic?

"There's the event experience that's created and crafted by the spaces, the acoustics and all the other elements of the building. And then there's the object in the landscape. The Bird's Nest stadium at the [Beijing] Olympics -- that was cool! Did it work as a place to watch the game? That's another question. If the experience is right, people will love it, and if it's a unique object, it only helps define the city better.

"Good is good, and people know good."


jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858

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