Advanced Design Studio (Smith)

Bass Baseball Studio


Design and Visualization



Coordinating Faculty

Advanced studios are limited in enrollment. Selection for studios is determined by lottery.

This semester’s Bass Studio will explore the urban design and development opportunities and challenges of large sports facilities in their host cities and neighborhoods.  In particular, we will consider the spatial, social and economic impact of baseball stadiums in different urban contexts.  Professional baseball has been, traditionally, an urban experience and source of identity in cities and towns across the country, and now around the world.  However, in the years after World War II, as American urban development in general became more suburbanized and automobile-oriented, and with the movement of a number of franchises from older city sites to new locations, the typology and siting of baseball stadiums changed radically, especially at the Major League level.  This often involved the building of generic facilities to accommodate sports and events in addition to baseball.  An exception to this pattern in the 1960’s is Dodger Stadium, designed as a baseball-only facility in the era of multipurpose stadia, near the city center but woven into a park rather than the city grid.  Then, with the development of Camden Yards by the Baltimore Orioles organization from 1989-92, an effort led in part by this year’s Bass Fellow, the pattern began to be change.  Older facilities in historic cities, like Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago, were once again models emulated precisely for their urban intimacy, character and even spatial idiosyncrasies, and have been restored, renovated and adapted to modern patterns of use, while conserving their image and relationship to the surrounding urban fabric.  New facilities, following the model of Camden Yards, seek to learn lessons from both older ballparks, as well as from the particularities and flavor of their urban settings.  This has not been merely a matter of architectural character or style, but has also involved the careful study of scale, mixture of uses, patterns of circulation, and the rituals and experience of baseball itself.  The impact of these developments has reached far beyond the major urban centers that have Major League teams, into medium-size cities and even small towns with minor league and independent teams, as well throughout the spring training venues of the Grapefruit League in Florida and the Cactus League in Arizona.

This studio will give students the opportunity to study the full gamut of scales, sites and circumstances, through visits to baseball parks across the country, the development of detailed analytic studies of a variety of stadiums, and then the design of two quite different projects that are currently under consideration by well-established organizations.  The first project, to be completed by midterm, will involve the design of a new or redeveloped facility for the Pawtucket Red Sox or Pawsox, the AAA farm team of the Boston Red Sox (see description below).  After midterm, the studio will focus on a very different project, the redevelopment of one of the icons of post-war modernism and urban renewal, Dodger Stadium at Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles, into which the Dodgers – perhaps the quintessential urban neighborhood team - moved in 1962, after leaving historic Ebbets Field in Brooklyn in 1958 (see description below).  In the case of Dodger Stadium, the challenge will be to reinvent the classic modernist facility and its dramatic site as a more urban place, better integrated with the life of a huge and rapidly changing metropolis and with its surrounding neighborhoods.  In the case of Pawtucket, the challenge will be to use minor league baseball as a source of urban energy and identity in an underdeveloped post-industrial New England mill town.  In both cases, the ability to work at multiple scales simultaneously from big-scale infrastructure and structure to the details of interior and exterior public spaces, informed by materials, visual relationships, lighting and landscape, will the crucial to developing successful projects.

The studio will visit Los Angeles and other Major League parks on the west coast, as well as several newer minor league parks in the south, during travel week at the beginning of the semester, and will visit Pawtucket and other east coast venues on day trips throughout the term.  The focus of these visits will be not simply the architecture of the stadiums but most importantly the elements that give them life beyond baseball and the catalytic network of spatial and productive relationships they construct with the surrounding city.  The game of baseball will also be a primary subject of consideration in all its spatial, cultural and political dimensions, as a highly structured experience, as a business and increasingly global brand, and as a source of both identity, competition and even conflict within and among cities.

Pawtucket Red Sox
Minor League Baseball and Urban Revitalization of Small Town Downtowns

Can the minor leagues do for small towns what the major leagues have done for larger market cities?   Can a venue that houses 10,000 be transformational in the same way that its major league counterpart of 40,000 is transformational?    Can the trend that begot baseball parks as buildings to jump start development in cities as diverse as Baltimore, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Denver, San Francisco and San Diego work for smaller towns?

Baseball has proven to be an important ingredient for Memphis, Nashville and El Paso, but those are cities with large metro populations and growing economies.   What about northeast towns like Wilkes-Barre Scranton, Portland and Lehigh Valley and Pawtucket, RI?    Can baseball or similar sports and entertainment venues replace the life, energy, and economic base of downtowns that have lost their industrial base?

This project will explore the opportunities available to the Red Sox AAA franchise, presently housed at 75-year-old McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.   The team would like to be a part of the downtown revitalization of Pawtucket, a key part of the Mill Valley reclamation though alternates exist in other locations.    How can this ballpark do more than simply coexist with nearby turn of the century buildings and the national park of Slater Mill?   How can the team introduce uses that have a life beyond baseball and play a role in creating new urban neighborhoods?   What can happen inside and around the park that would draw other investment and users to the area?

The team’s future home is uncertain:  their stated preference is to move to an underutilized site in Pawtucket, adjacent the downtown, the Providence River, the Slater Mill National Park and I-95.   How can they demonstrate the value they can bring to the economic growth of Pawtucket?   If they are not successful, how can and should they evaluate other options.

Dodger Stadium

This project will explore the mid-century modern architectural style of Dodger Stadium, carved into the hillside of Chavez Ravine, its place in LA culture and design challenges to insure its popularity as a destination in a city full of destinations.  When the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles in 1958, it was with a plan to build a privately funded baseball stadium on a 300-acre site that the City of Los Angeles had originally assembled for a federally funded housing project that was still on the drawing boards when that program dissolved.   In an unprecedented move, the City of LA determined that it would meet the federal requirement of putting a civic use on the property if a baseball park was constructed.   Thus, Dodger Stadium stands alone in the annuals of history books as the only midcentury modern, privately financed park in a major city.   In the 55 years since Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, the neighborhoods around Chavez Ravine have matured in a way that squarely places the stadium in the middle of the urban center.  Borders are booming Chinatown, Downtown Los Angeles, the Echo Park neighborhood and Elysian Park, home to green space, hiking trails and the nearby LA River.  Nearby Union Station is a transit hub for LA’s robust Metro system.  How can Dodger Stadium be transformed to maintain its place in baseball lore (now the 3rd oldest park in the major leagues) while morphing to fit the demands of today's fans, including the need to connect to the surrounding neighborhoods via mass transit as well as better vehicular connections.   Its unique design is also its curse:  at Dodger Stadium, fans enter on each level, nearest their seat location.   While that was convenient when fans were arriving 4 per car and one could park near the entry, today, there are fewer fans per car due to changing demographics and work day habits, more transit and ride sharing options, and variable parking prices which value the closer spaces more than outlying spaces.
Dodger Stadium needs re-tooling to create a sense of arrival, a place of entry, a focal point,  a central meeting and milling space and better circulation on a site with elevation changes of over 100 feet. The program and design challenge is to offer more amenities on site and better the access to (and egress from) the Stadium.  Opportunities abound to create magnets for new fans as well as staples for long time fans and can feature memorabilia, film, food and beverage, entertainment and other uses that support the game.  This studio will explore the stadium, the program of other sports and entertainment venues and offer solutions to carry Dodger Stadium another half century forward.

Bibliography and Filmography

Dan Barry, Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption, and Baseball’s Longest Game, 2011.

Philip Bess, City Baseball Magic, 1989.

Baseball: A Film by Ken Burns, 1994.

Bull Durham, 1988.

Joanna Cagan and Neil deMause, Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money into Private Profit, 1998.

Nicholas Dawidoff, “Field of Kitsch,” The New Republic, August 17, 1992.

Field of Dreams, 1989.

A Bartlett Giamatti, A Great and Glorious Game, 1998.

Doris Kearns Godwin, Wait Until Next Year, 1998.

W.P. Kinsella, Shoeless Joe, 1982.

Bruce Kuklick, To Every Thing a Season: Shibe Park and Urban Philadelphia, 1909-1976, 1991.

John Pastier,, Ballparks: Yesterday and Today, 2010.

Jerlad Podair, City of Dreams: Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles, 2017.

Karl B. Raitz, ed., The Theater of Sport, 1995.

Steven A. Reiss, City Games: The Evolution of American Urban Society and the Rise of Sports, 1989.

Peter Richmond, Ballpark: Camden Yards and the Building of the American Dream, 1993.

Daniel Rosensweig, Retro Ball Parks: Instant History, Baseball, and the New American City, 2005.

Curt Smith, Stadium Stories: Baseball’s History through Its Ballparks, 2001.

Neil Sullivan, The Dodgers Move West, 1989.

Neil J. Sullivan, The Diamond in the Bronx: Yankee Stadium and the Politics of New York, 2008.

When It Was a Game, 1991.