The vision of developing an NFL stadium as a civic icon in Atlanta led project officials to Peter Eisenman’s doorstep.
Eisenman, a noted New York City architect whose firm specializes in art museums, made a statement in sports when he co-designed University of Phoenix Stadium for the Arizona Cardinals. Six years later, Eisenman is back in the NFL competing for work after Falcons owner’s representative Icon Venue Group called the 80-year-old architect and asked him to respond to their request for qualifications.
Eisenman Architects was one of 10 groups submitting qualifications to design a 72,000-seat stadium in Atlanta with $700 million in hard costs.
The Falcons and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, the proposed stadium’s owner, contacted several architects working outside of sports after the document was posted publicly, said Richard Sawyer, the project’s procurement director.
The RFQ states up front in bold letters the intent to develop a “distinctly iconic” landmark in Atlanta and the state of Georgia. Eisenman Architects was the only civic architect to submit its qualifications, based on the list of respondents disclosed by the authority in late December.
“The people from Icon called us at the suggestion of [Falcons] ownership,” Eisenman said. “Evidently, they had seen a number of NFL stadiums and liked our work in Arizona. This is our first time [proposing for NFL work] other than the Cardinals.”
When University of Phoenix Stadium opened in 2006, it was praised for its unconventional design: a metallic mushroom-shaped exterior, a portable field and suites marketed as lofts with cork floors and carpeted walls. For the Cardinals’ project, team President Michael Bidwill, intent on making a statement in the desert, hired Eisenman to design a signature stadium several years before teaming him with Populous to complete the project. In Atlanta, a similar situation could occur if Eisenman’s boutique firm makes the short list, Eisenman said.
“It’s not in our firm’s capability to be the lead designer,” he said. “We spoke to Populous, and they told us they thought they might be able to get it on their own, but if it was required, they would join up with us. A few other firms said the same thing.”
By Wednesday, the Falcons and the authority will short-list qualified candidates, giving those groups time to expand their teams before submitting design proposals before a Feb. 1 deadline.
Should Eisenman Architects make the cut, it would be up to company officials to choose a design partner, Sawyer said.
Missing among the Falcons submissions was HNTB, designer of the San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium under construction in Santa Clara and a finalist to plan the Minnesota Vikings’ facility in downtown Minneapolis. “We assessed it really close … but with all the other things we’re looking at, we decided it probably wasn’t the smartest one to pursue,” said Tim Cahill, HNTB vice president and national director of design.
HKS, the winner in Minnesota, submitted for the Falcons job. Heery, Rosser and TVS Design, the three architects that teamed up to design the 20-year-old Georgia Dome, the Falcons’ current home, are split among two submissions.