Backers of a new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons chose a design Monday that is all about geometric curves, translucent skin and a roof that opens like a mechanical flower, hoping it will become the city’s architectural signature.
The team and a stadium committee of the Georgia World Congress Center Authority gave the stadium’s architect the go ahead to focus its efforts on a concept dubbed “Pantheon.”
In addition to the angular profile and retractable roof, it includes a wall of glass that looks toward the downtown skyline and a video board that encircles the roof opening.
“Certainly in our view (it is) a very iconic structure,” GWCCA Executive Director Frank Poe said. “It’s very notable. It’s flexible. The opening of the roof itself is very different and one that I think would be noted for a long time.
“I think it’s architecture that stands the test of time.”
Georgia Tech architecture professor Benjamin Flowers said Atlanta could use such an icon, at least aesthetically.
While watching the Weather Channel recently, he said, he noticed that cities such as Seattle, Chicago and New York all were represented by photos of famous buildings. Atlanta was represented by an image of the Downtown Connector.
“If you’re going to have a $1 billion project, it has to be something that creates an identity for the city as a whole,” said Benjamin Flowers, an associate professor of architecture at Georgia Tech.
The concept selection is the latest step in bringing the new field, slated to open in 2017, to life. Questions about the need for a new stadium and the process of approving it linger, but the project has steadily moved ahead this year.
The new building, at 1.8 million square feet, will be larger than the 1.6 million-square-foot Georgia Dome, which will be demolished after its replacement’s construction. Seating will be about the same at 70,000-plus.
Last week the Falcons said they have selected Atlanta-based Holder Construction and Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Hunt Construction Group to be general contractor for the project.
Both will require approval by the GWCC Authority at its monthly meeting today. If approved, the project’s architect, 360 Architecture, will prepare to begin schematics for the design, which are more detailed than a concept.
The concept called “Pantheon” — the name of a Roman temple with an opening in its domed roof — was one of two considered. The other, called “Solarium,” included a larger roof opening and more glass but lacked upper-level end-zone seats.
Robert Boland, academic chairman of the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management at New York University, cautioned that creating a standout design is easier in the concept phase than later, when costs are calculated.
Under current plans the Falcons are responsible for about 80 percent of construction costs, while public bonds will be used for $200 million.
There are issues yet to be resolved, however. To begin more detailed work, the architecture firm needs to know the site.
The Falcons and the GWCCA prefer to build on the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. and Northside drives, immediately south of the Dome. But they must first buy out two churches — Mount Vernon Baptist and Friendship Baptist.
Friendship Baptist leaders said last week they expect an offer from the city of Atlanta, which is leading the negotiations with the church on the deal. Those leaders could not be reached Monday.
Leaders at Mount Vernon also could not be reached. They are in talks with the GWCCA, which went into executive session Monday on land acquisition, but officials declined to speak about the discussion afterward.
In addition, Common Cause of Georgia is trying to collect 35,000 signatures from registered Atlanta voters to force a referendum on the use of $200 million in hotel-motel tax collections to be used to finance the stadium.
A winning concept?
Atlanta’s new stadium will be a big departure from the Georgia Dome. Some key differences:
— The roof will open with triangular shapes overlapping like a kaleidoscope
— Electronic billboards will ring the rim of the retractable roof like a “halo”
— The shell could include translucent facade that will allow a window into the building on lower levels
— A glass wall in one part of the building could provide a skyline view