The Super Bowl XLIX logo on the University of Phoenix Stadium on Jan. 27.
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press The Super Bowl XLIX logo on the University of Phoenix Stadium on Jan. 27.

Almost exactly seven years ago, the New England Patriots lost Super Bowl XLII to the New York Giants. On Sunday, the team returns to the scene of that loss—the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.—to face off the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.

At its first Super Bowl go-around, the stadium was still in its infancy. New York's Peter Eisenman, FAIA, was the design architect on the project, and Kansas City, Mo.–based Populous was the architect of record (HOK Sport Venue Event, as it was known at the time of the project, became independent from HOK in 2008 and rebranded as Populous, as it is known today). The 1.7 million-square-foot stadium opened in August 2006 as the home of the Arizona Cardinals.

Aaron Dougherty

Aaron Dougherty

"I was at the last Super Bowl, when the Giants—which is my team—beat the Patriots, so I was really happy about that," says Eisenman, who was recently named the 2015 recipient of the AIA Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education. "Being a football fan, it's like a Catholic designing a church or a cathedral."

Populous principal Brady Spencer, part of the team that worked on the University of Phoenix Stadium, used a very similar metaphor: "this is the Easter Sunday of the NFL stadium." Populous is also in charge of the event planning and operations for this year's Super Bowl, as it has been for the last 31 Super Bowl games.

In the November 2006 issue of Architectural Record, Joann Gonchar, AIA, wrote: "In the otherwise parched landscape of the so-called Valley of the Sun, the shimmering new stadium for the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals rises from the incongruously lush farmlands immediately surrounding it like a strange but pleasing apparition. Chameleonlike, the building's double-curved steel cladding reflects light differently throughout the day. At night, the stadium seems to phosphoresce, glowing from within through its 21 glazed slots, or 'canyons.' "

Aaron Dougherty

The University of Phoenix Stadium is notable for having a retractable roof as well as a retractable field, the only one in the United States. The 234-by-403-foot grass field, all 18.9 million pounds of it, can be pulled into the sunlight on non-game days and make room for other events. According to The Seattle Times, the NFL shipped in a grass field from Alabama that was special-grown for this year's Super Bowl and the recent Pro Bowl. Sunday's game will also be the first Super Bowl to be lit with LEDs: 44,928 Cree XLamp MK-R LEDs, to be specific.

Aaron Dougherty

For more information and images of the University of Phoenix Stadium, visit ARCHITECT's Project Gallery.