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Let’s Talk About the New Indoor Practice Facility At Notre Dame

The first renderings of Notre Dame Football and Soccer’s indoor facility were just released, how do they look?

Twitter @NDFootball

First an introduction. I’ve been writing about Notre Dame Fighting Irish baseball and hockey here of OFD for a few months now, hopefully you’ve read some of my stuff. If not, shame on you. Believe it or not though, this is only a part time gig for me. When I’m not writing here I’m an architect, and a classically trained one at that through Notre Dame’s graduate program. (I love you Bond Hall, but also I hate you.) I’m going to start adding some more architecture and design related stuff here on OFD, both on new facilities and some historical stuff. If you don’t want to read it you don’t have to (please read it). If you do want to read, great! Glad to have you along for the ride. If there’s something specific you want to read about feel free to let me know, either in the comments, or on twitter, or anywhere else you want!

You’ve probably heard by now that Notre Dame is building a new indoor practice facility for the football team as well as for the men’s and women’s soccer teams. If you haven’t, surprise! The new indoor facility will be replacing the western most field of the LaBar Practice Complex. That would be just across Leahy Dr. from Rolfs and just north of Alumni and Arlotta Stadiums. With scheduled completion of the new facility in July 2019, just over a year from now, things are going to be moving pretty quickly. So stay tuned for more updates.

The first renderings of the new facility were released today, and they are...well let’s take a look...

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Notre Dame, as a University, has adopted a very strict standard for new buildings on campus. They will all look relatively the same, so if you’re saying to yourself, “where have I seen this building before?” the answer is everywhere else on campus. The idea behind this is that you should be able to see any building on Notre Dame’s campus and immediately know that it is on Notre Dame’s campus. It makes sense, but it also removes a good deal of creativity from the process. That goes for athletic facilities, residence halls, educational buildings, everything. The only exceptions are everything on Mod Quad (and let’s be honest, everybody regrets those and they were built before the standards were in place) and parts of the new architecture building. Yes, we’re special, and believe me that was a BATTLE. Even Campus Crossroads is no exception.

The second thing to note is that these are VERY preliminary renderings. Look closely at the brick pattern, its literally a pattern. You can see it repeat. Often. Also, look at how that street shines at night! Recognize that these are preliminary, that the design will change, and that things will look much better when actually built.

Now, all that being said, these renderings are completely underwhelming. They’re OK, not great. When every building you put up is essentially a cookie cutter format though, that’s the reaction you will continually get. We can debate if that is the right way for the University to design (please let’s), but that is what they’ve chosen to do and we’re not changing their minds.

There are definitely some good things here, don’t get me wrong. The amount of glazing on the entrances is great, and on a sunny day that will be an incredible experience inside the facility, but you have to imagine those windows are going to be pretty well blocked when the team is practicing, essentially making all them active only one way. The benefit of large amounts of glazing is that you let in huge amounts of light, but also you connect the exterior and the interior together. If those windows are blocked off to keep practices private you’re cutting off that connection and essentially defeating their purpose. Also that seating on the balcony, is that a cafe? Study area? Whatever it is I can see a lot of use coming out of that, maybe concessions for any soccer or lacrosse games that get forced indoors?

The banners on the interior of the facility are a nice touch, especially since the football team will see these with a good deal of regularity. Can we get some color in there that isn’t white though? Maybe navy trusses or walls? It feels so sterile and not a place I would want to spend hours practicing football. Hopefully that’s coming as the design becomes more finalized.

The entire exterior of the building leaves something to be desired to me. There’s just no detail and no imagination, nothing that makes the building stand out among all the others. You can provide that detail and still remain within the University’s guidelines of design and that’s my biggest critique of this design. It feels as if they’ve done the bare minimum and nothing more. It looks decent, its OK, it just doesn’t excite me and as an architecture nerd I want to be excited. We’ll see what this thing looks like as more renderings are released and it becomes more realistic. Until then I’m going to hold off final judgement.

If you disagree, let me know about it. And like I said if there’s anything architecture or design related you want to see here on OFD, let me know about that too.


Do you like the new facility?

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