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The Washington Post‘s architecture guru Philip Kennicott writes a withering critique of Nationals Park for today’s paper. The critic believes this behemoth, designed by experienced stadium architecture firm HOK, is a dud.
He dubs the parking garages as “disastrously situated” for obscuring the front entrance. And then ticks off all the lost opportunities:
“Approached from the South Capitol Street bridge, the building might have been better framed by more greenery — but a parking lot for the team has been placed right where a garden should be. Along South Capitol, the face of the building might have been opened up for street-level retail, something to make it inviting and even useful for the residents of the very poor neighborhood. There are even glass windows that suggest what storefronts might have looked like, but those windows are filled with Nationals advertising and they hide empty, useless space.”
And later in the piece, Kennicott goes in for the devastating blow:
“From the top of the stadium, look out at the skyline, toward the Capitol Dome. At first, it seems like a happy accident that it is most visible from the cheapest seats. But now look down into the neighborhoods where public schools have become dilapidated brick bunkers, their windows covered in forbidding metal mesh. It’s enough to make you weep. Not about the stadium, which is as generic as it goes. But rather the cynical pragmatism that governs our priorities, socially and architecturally. Washington is a city where people can stare straight at the most powerful symbol of their democratic enfranchisement, and still feel absolutely powerless to change the course of our winner-takes-all society.”
I would agree with Kennicott. I toured the stadium about six weeks ago. The parking garages really stuck out. Especially when you consider that’s the place where home run balls may end up. The garages scream Montgomery Mall. The rest of the facade is in fact pretty dull.
Yesterday morning, I drove by the stadium and thought about all the street-level spaces that were left empty. I’m sure they will be filled with all kinds of mega-chain crap. But did they really have to be papered over with those silly illustrations of ballplayers? It’s the same illos that cover the windows of the other Lerner project at 20 M Street SE. The posters look cheap.
I love the fact that the critic basically echoes Fenty’s old position about priorities. Now that he’s mayor, he had to go to the game.
I didn’t go. So what do I know about the actual experience?