For fans of the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos, this Super Bowl Sunday is about the football. But the game is also the Super Bowl debut for Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., a venue designed by HNTB. The 1.85 million-square-foot stadium opened in 2014 as the new home for the San Francisco 49ers. It's the first LEED Gold NFL stadium and has been tricked out with fast Wi-Fi and an app—not surprising for a Silicon Valley stadium.
"From the very beginning design-wise, this really became an expression of simple geometric forms and shapes," says Tim Cahill, FAIA, senior vice president and chief design officer at HNTB as well as the stadium project's chief design principal. "This was never meant to be a retro type of approach to stadium design or looking backwards towards an aesthetic. This was always meant to be a reflection of innovation and of what the Silicon Valley and San Francisco area is."
One of the teams playing on Sunday already has a familiarity with the work of HNTB. The firm also designed the Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, the home stadium for the Broncos.
"We try and make each of the buildings that we do reflective of where they’re located," Cahill says. "So Broncos stadium, the brick materials are the colors of the Broncos and of the region. The upper bowl is kind of sinuous shape, which is reflective of the mountains, etc. The open ends on it, views of Pikes Peak—it’s about that location, it’s about that site. The same thing here in Santa Clara. The idea was to have an open-air structure, so it’s about views into the bowl, it’s about views outside to the surrounding areas as well. So each of these stadiums is, again, about the context and about the culture in which they sit."
At Sunday's game, where they'll be watching from the Levi’s 501 Club, Cahill and his colleagues Lanson Nichols and Wes Crosby will be rooting for the Broncos.
"They’re a client, but also long-term friends and I'm excited to see them there," says Nichols, HNTB vice president and principal project manager on the stadium. "When we were doing the project for Denver was when they won their back-to-back Super Bowls—was right before that opened. [Ed note: 1998 and 1999] So that was an exciting time, and it’s an exciting time to see them there again, and to be playing in another stadium that we designed."
Or, as Crosby, HNTB's director of design for interiors, puts it: "You can't root against your client."
Visit ARCHITECT's Project Gallery for more information and images about Levi's Stadium.