- The Washington Times - Friday, April 1, 2005

HOK Sport, named yesterday as architect of the Washington Nationals’ stadium in Southeast, said it is planning to design a ballpark that is “iconic and truly distinctive to Washington, D.C.”

The Kansas City-based firm, working in joint partnership with the District architecture firm Devrouax & Purnell, is still months away from a final design. But already being considered are several dramatic ideas for the waterfront ballpark, including a heavy use of glass in the exterior of the stadium, and finding some way to have the facility thematically tie into the original street grid of Washington laid out by Major Pierre Charles L’Enfant. Previously discussed ideas include a substantial use of stone with the exterior glass.

“Nothing is really in or out at this point,” said Joseph Spear, HOK Sport senior principal. “But a lot of times we get typecast, and this is a real chance to break out of that. Ballparks are something you really do get emotional about, which is a big part of why we’re attracted to doing these projects.”

Many of HOK’s recent ballparks have featured a similar motif based on an extensive use of brick and steel, though its portfolio of European and Asian sports facilities shows more risk-taking and unusual designs.

“What we’re after is a stadium that is both contemporary yet timeless,” said Marshall Purnell, principal with Devrouax & Purnell.

Spear and Purnell will combine to lead the joint venture and the overall stadium design.

The HOK/Devrouax & Purnell joint bid, as expected, received unanimous approval from the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission. The team submitted a bid of $18.6million to design the stadium, the lowest of three finalists by nearly $4million.

Allen Y. Lew, sports commission chief executive officer, confirmed what had been the worst-kept secret within the architecture and design communities: The HOK/Devrouax & Purnell bid was “the front-runner almost from the time of inception.”

“They are simply the most qualified team to take on this challenge,” Lew said. “There’s no question they bring to the table an extremely impressive portfolio.”

HOK has served as the lead architect for 10 of the last 14 stadiums in Major League Baseball to be built, including Oriole Park at Camden Yards and San Francisco’s SBC Park.

Despite those credentials, Lew said he is considering the creation of a peer advisory panel comprised of other architecture and design professionals to help HOK and Devrouax & Purnell with its work. While Spear said he had not worked within such a structure before, he offered no objections to the additional oversight.

The sports commission also is planning to have some type of public advisory process to allow for citizen input into the design, though details have yet to be solidified.

The ballpark is due to open for the 2008 season, and the tight timetable to design and construct the stadium became an advantage for HOK because no other competing firm for the District job came close to matching its resume.

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