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Rethinking the idea of a stadium

ASU design students see possibilities in Sun Devil Stadium as a community space.
May 13, 2016

ASU Design School students reconsider how to use 1.32 acres of turf, 60,000 seats and a concourse full of possibility

The fundamental concept of a stadium has remained unchanged since ancient Greece: an enclosed space, tiered seating and amenities to accommodate large crowds gathered to watch competitions.

Now, design students at Arizona State University are drawing on faculty research and their peers’ creativity to rethink the idea of what a stadium can — and should — be. Their ideas are being incorporated into plansPlans range from architectural and transportation strategies to phone apps, branding and foldable furniture. for the re-envisioned Sun Devil Stadium, which is expected to complete in September 2017.

“In the last 40 to 50 years, we have acknowledged that stadiums are an asset in the city or campus infrastructure, adding to its original programming of its specific use for a particular sport,” said assistant professor of design Milagros Zingoni. “You see concerts, exhibits, shows, conference, but these variances are only from the programming point of view.

“We are looking at the overall stadium as a place that is used every single day. And that’s how ASU is becoming unique in rethinking the Sun Devil Stadium as an emergent taxonomy.”

Zingoni’s research focuses on emerging typologies as a result of changes associated with technology evolution — that is, the physical characteristics commonly found in buildings and urban places, such as the “type” of dwelling typically inhabited by a single family in a suburban landscape.

She explained that activities used to be bound to a place: people lived in a home, worked at an office, learned at a school or gathered with friends in a park. Because of changes in technology and culture, many of those activities can now be completed at any of those places.

“Looking at how these typologies are emerging is part of the design thinking process we want students to be exposed to — to basically think in a different way and challenge everything thus far to do it differently to address the needs of today,” she said.

The Sun Devil Central student design team.

The Design School’s 2016 Interdisciplinary Cluster Competition winners presented “Sun Devil Central” — ASU’s own urban park in the middle of bustling campus and commercial communities. Team Lotus members are (from left): Patrick Griffin (visual communication), Liz Madsen (architecture), Olivia Morley (industrial design), Matt Phan (visual communication) and Callie Raish (interior design).

For the past nine years, Zingoni and clinical professor Will Heywood have led a competition for all junior students enrolled in ASU’s The Design School, part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. The competition, the Interdisciplinary Cluster Competition, brings together students studying to be architects, landscape architects, industrial designers, interior designers and visual communicators to propose solutions to a design question. This year saw 35 teams composed of 162 students.

The competition originally focused on so-called “wicked problems” — that is, broad issues that are often too complex or in flux to be solved: climate change, social injustice, pandemic influenza.

In a particularly successful year, a winning team created a rolling water-purification device to transport, clean and store drinking water. The invention is patented and is being used in developing regions throughout Africa.

More recently, teams have applied their ideas to improving spaces closer to home by addressing needs of users at local non-profits, including the I.D.E.A. (“imagination, design, experience, art”) Museum and Maricopa Workforce Connections.

In 2016, the competition turned personal.

Few individuals better understand the lives and cultural and socioeconomic conditions of college students than, well, college students. When asked to reinvent Sun Devil Stadium, the students displayed a special sense of ownership.

“They were very committed and felt that they had a voice,” Zingoni said.

Over the course of 10 days, the teams — composed of students with different design specialties — considered and presented their ideas for what Kendon Jung calls a “disruption of the idea of what a stadium means.” Jung, a master’s candidate in postsecondary education who graduated in May, spent his required practicum working with the student groups and synthesizing how to increase the life of the stadium.

Student submissions included a running track around the main concourse; concessions open for daily use and food vendors inspired by Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport’s commitment to local restaurants; new methods of entering, exiting and traversing the field so that the Tempe campus is connected to Tempe Town Lake and adjacent commercial developments; pop-up tents that cover stadium seats and double as lecture spaces; showers for bike commuters; child-care facilities; and new ways — including movie nights and a beer garden — to activate the stadium as a “third space,” which is sociologist Ray Oldenburg’s term for somewhere outside home and work that serves as a place to find comfort, retreat and community.

Faculty judges from each discipline within The Design School — as well as Herberger Institute Dean Steven Tepper; Craig Barton, director of The Design School and professor of architecture; Isaac Manning, Sun Devil Stadium project representative; Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director for ASU Gammage and associate vice president of cultural affairs, who is overseeing news projects involving the stadium; and Jack Furst, founder of Oak Stream Investors, who has been instrumental in providing private support for the new stadium — said picking a winner was formidable, and at least one aspect from each of the six semifinalist teams’ submissions is being considered for implementation into the new stadium.

A student team's idea of creative use of Sun Devil Stadium.

The competition’s winning team envisioned Sun Devil Stadium as the Central Park of the Tempe campus, with a goal of "making sure every student uses the stadium in ways that speak to them." Pictured at the top of this story is another image from the team, that of the stadium’s concourse as a gathering place for the community.

“Our overall concept was ‘Sun Devil Central,’” said junior Patrick Griffin, who is studying visual communications. “The name refers to New York City’s Central Park because our main idea was to open the field during the off-season and turn it into a park students and the public can enjoy.”

“It was the first experience I had working with other disciplines, which was very interesting because we got a glimpse into how the other disciplines worked,” said junior Matthew Phan, who is also a visual communication major.

As part of the winning team, Griffin and Phan were given the opportunity to spend a day shadowing professionals in their field. Zingoni says the local community has been very supportive of the competition, and in many cases offers students summer internships to continue their work.

Such was the case for Griffin, who will spend his summer at Gould Evans/Canary Studio, the downtown Phoenix architecture firm and in-house graphic design studio that is overseeing renovations for the stadium project — or what is now being referred to as “Sun Devil Central.”

As its envisioning continues, Zingoni and her colleagues plan to repeat the competition at other schools at ASU to incorporate the ideas of students with expertise in business, engineering and other areas.

“Wow, this is the kind of thought that’s happening? It’s no wonder we’re able to achieve such great stuff and that ASU has been prominent in the public eye for its innovation,” Jung said. “It’s been humbling to be a part of the process.”

More stadium ideas

See what a team of MBA students proposed to turn the stadium into a year-round cultural hub here.

Beth Giudicessi


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Drawing the brightest minds to ASU

May 13, 2016

With addition this month of two more Nobel winners, the university now claims a quartet of world’s highest science honorees

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2016, click here.

Nobel laureate Edward Prescott got The Phone Call at 4 a.m., an hour typically not a harbinger of good tidings.

His house in Paradise Valley was being remodeled, and he was living in the guest suite. He had some inkling he was in the running, due to British bookies. (People in the United Kingdom bet on the Nobel Prizes.)

“I had seen the betting odds and I had thought that if I were to get it, it would be precisely for what they gave the award for,” said Prescott, who shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences with Finn E. Kydland for their contributions to dynamic macroeconomics: the time consistency of economic policy and the driving forces behind business cycles.

“There’s an awful lot of people who think they deserve a Nobel Prize, and some of them do. I knew there was a chance.”

PrescottPrescott is also the W. P. Carey Chair in Economics., a Regents' Professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business, won his Nobel while at Arizona State University. “I did not think a Nobel Prize would be a big deal, but it turned out to be,” he said.

With the addition this month of two more Nobel winners, the university now claims a quartet of the world’s highest academic honorees.

ASU's four Nobel laureates

ASU’s Nobel laureates (from left): Edward Prescott, Leland Hartwell, Sidney Altman and Frank Wilczek. Altman and Wilczek recently joined the ASU faculty.

 “Each year, more and more of the world’s brightest minds choose to advance their field of study at ASU,” Michael M. Crow, university president, said. “Our world-class reputation for innovation has created an environment where anything is possible — an attractive attribute in a research university.”

Leland Hartwell, Virginia G. Piper Chair of Personalized Medicine and chief scientistHartwell is also a distinguished sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability; professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering; and professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. of the Center for Sustainable Health in the Biodesign Institute, won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries of a specific class of genes that control the cell cycle.

Sidney Altman shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1989 with Thomas R. Cech for their discoveries, independent of each other, that ribonucleic acid actively aids chemical reactions in cells. Altman will join the School of Life Sciences as a professor.

Frank Wilczek, a theoretical physicistKrauss is also Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and director of its Origins Project. and mathematician, shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics with David Gross and H. David Politzer for their discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction. Wilczek will join the Department of Physics.

Nobel laureates can go anywhere they want, but they chose ASU.

Lawrence Krauss, theoretical physicist and cosmologist, was instrumental in bringing the two newest laureates here. He explained the benefit to a university of having them on campus.

“Having Nobel laureates on the faculty demonstrates that ASU is a major research institution, but more than that, it offers an environment for research and education that cannot be found at traditional famous institutions like MIT and Yale,” Krauss said.

“We can offer them flexibility, and support for their work that they cannot find elsewhere, as well as stimulation, both through the access to a broad set of faculty, and students who greatly value their presence, and also through the regular stream of visitors that we can bring here, through Origins and other programs. ... It also demonstrates to the people of Arizona, and the Legislature, that ASU can be a cherished jewel that attracts the best and brightest to the state.” 

Prescott has often said he enjoys challenges, and he said he has found them in the classroom at ASU.

“Teaching is so important,” he said. “You need students as much as you need faculty. I call them junior colleagues. ... The ones I run into in the honors course I teach, they’re exceptional. I think they’re smarter than the Harvard faculty, and the Harvard faculty is pretty smart. It’s real work dealing with them because they don’t have preconceived notions of things, so they come up with really good questions the profession should have been asking itself. I bring (those questions) to the attention of the profession.”

Krauss said students having the access to learn from Nobel laureates is an enormous benefit.

“While of course prizes are arbitrary to some extent, these individuals have made major contributions to human knowledge, and it is important that our students know that they can have direct access to minds like theirs, and other great faculty at the university, as they continue their studies here,” he said.

Prescott said he has found a culture of collaboration at ASU.

“We’re making such progress in the economics area, building a culture of intellectual ambition, not sort of how many papers you publish, which are a bad measure of output, but rather what you can contribute,” he said. “Start out with a good question: I encourage that, no matter what it’s in. ... I guess I’m more of a team player — I like working with groups and interacting and having a group do well. I like doing what I can for the group. Loyalty is so important.”

He has also been challenged intellectually.

When someone takes time to criticize your work, that’s a compliment,” he said.

Exposing internationally recognized scientists to ASU faculty and students and the university’s transdisciplinary culture via the Origins project was the first step in inviting them to join the faculty, Krauss said.

“We felt that while these people would not be on the ASU faculty, we could benefit from their wisdom and experience, and they could benefit from the environment here,” he said. “I had hoped that a number of these individuals would be as impressed with the entrepreneurial attitude that brought me to ASU and might want to establish a longer-term relationship with ASU. I am delighted that Sid Altman and Frank Wilczek have both been sufficiently impressed with their experiences here, through their positions as visiting Origins Professors, to decide to join the faculty at ASU. It helps validate much of what we have been trying to do.”

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News