The North Irvington Gardens Historic District (wikipedia) is the part of the Indianapolis Eastside that is directly north of where I live. It is another great Indianapolis neighborhood, and is full of people. Technically, it is on the national register of historic places, but is not a locally registered historic district. This can sometimes be an important distinction, but it depends on what your own feelings on the matter are.
The only local blogger I could find was this website: Irvington Terrace blog. It isn’t what I would call particularly active, but if you are a resident of the area maybe you can hint to the author you would like to see more, or maybe you know of another website/blog and can post a link in the comments section.
Two important businesses in this area are the Community East hospital branch and the Historic Steer-In restaurant. Only one of the two serves beer, so you can guess which one you are getting photos of…
Built in the 1950′s, the Steer-In used modern design to stand out
The covered drive-in design still looks great
This is about as authentic a place as you can find
Steer-In has a limited but very good bottle beer selection
Since I’ve been writing this blog now for about 1 year or so, I figured it was a good time to reflect. My first entry “structural engineering weblog manifesto” was the first step on my new adventure. While my scope of topics has grown somewhat as time passed, I am comfortable with the inclusive nature of the website.
My purpose in writing this blog was to show that structural engineers should be actively involved in the process of design. Engineering is not just another trade involved in construction. Engineers must be intimately involved from day one for optimal results. Strong communication skills and a synergistic relationship with the design team is the only way a project can move from adequate to sublime. Buildings that inspire, that push the boundaries of technology, or that serve as an icon for a community need more than just the best architects, they need the best engineers as well.
I have also learned to appreciate my role as a blogger. The typical stereotype of an engineer is someone who shuns public attention and concentrates on technical subjects even when humanistic problems are to blame. I am no different. It is a horribly frightening experience to put one’s opinions on the internet and start discussions about sensitive topics. Even when someone tells me that they enjoyed a post or article it feels wrong. But I know it is absolutely necessary that we speak up for ourselves as individuals. Instead of shunning public attention, I have instead shunned anonymity. Since my profession is one of accountability, I feel it would be unethical to anonymously voice my opinions.
Our professional organizations do a great job speaking for our profession, but that is only one side of life. I encourage engineers (and indeed anyone who has something to say) to start a website. Maybe join up with a few like-minded individuals, either as a student group at an engineering school, or fans of architecture within a city. If that is still too far for the first step, then start small with a journal or notebook where you write down ideas for later use.
Engineers have the ability to change the built environment so that public welfare is dramatically improved. Civil engineers are the builders of civilizations. But we are also a part of that civilization. We need to show our social awareness in addition to our technical skills.
Lucas Oil Products bought the naming rights for USD$121M
September 2008 – The Stadium is now open for business
My appreciation for this structure has nothing to do with the game of football or the events inside, I just totally love the way it was conceived, designed, and built. HKS was the Architect and Walter P. Moore was the Engineer of Record. The structure was finished in August of 2008 and has already been used for one full season of American Football and for many other conventions and events. It replaced the innovative RCA dome (or Hoosier dome) used as the Colts stadium since 1984. The RCA dome stood alongside its finished replacement for a few months before being imploded in December of 2008.
A last view to the old RCA Dome
I’ll leave it to other critics (try Circles and Squares or DIG-B) to decide the merits of the architecture of the stadium, I am only writing this post to discuss the structural system and design of a few key elements I find interesting. Also, I strongly recommend anyone who is interested in this stadium to review most of the documents on the IndyStar stadium page. They have some great photo galleries (like this one, but view in reverse order) and a great time-lapse video that shows construction from groundbreaking to completion (see below, I recommend muting and going full-screen).
As you can see from the video, this is a huge structure and it took a long time to complete it. It’s most famous feature is the retractable roof. A lot of stadiums these days have retractable roofs, but Indy’s stadium is the first with a gable roof system that splits lengthwise. It also has sliding end-zone panels that reveal downtown Indy just to the northeast. Beyond that, it’s a pretty typical football stadium, seating 63,000+ spectators on precast stadium risers. It also has all of the standard “jumbo-tron” equipment and luxury suites that modern stadiums use. But let’s discuss the shell and roof of the stadium because that’s what appeals most to me.
So what makes the Lucas Oil Stadium an achievement worthy of celebration? Why do I think it’s the best modern “dome” stadium? Partially I think it’s just a feeling, but I’ve got some good substantive reasons, too:
The overall form pays tribute to the massive sports arenas of the region such as the Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University
The material choice reflects the common materials used in downtown Indianapolis
The structural system uses enormous portal frames similar to the large industrial buildings throughout downtown
It all comes down to context. The building isn’t removed from the city surrounding it either by form, material choice, or structural system. Everything just seems to fit. That was the one complaint about the RCA dome, it appeared as though an alien spaceship had landed in the midwest. I fear the Dallas Cowboy New Stadium went down the alien path, however. It is unique in its own way, but mostly Dallas just needed something BIG. (aside: I grew up in Texas; yes everything is bigger; no don’t mess with us) The bigness was very important when both Dallas and Indy were competing for 2011 Superbowl. Dallas won out because more fans = more money.
I actually prefer smaller stadiums. Both Heinz Field in Pittsburgh (USD$281M) and the Columbus Crew Stadium (USD$28M) are regional stadiums that have successfully met the requirements of their tenants. The smaller stadium size allows fans to get very close to the action, and lowers tickets costs and maintenance. Having attended games at all of these locations, and being caught in thunderstorms, heavy snow, and hot sun, I can say that Lucas Oil Stadium’s (USD$720M) famous roof was well worth the effort. The Lucas Oil Stadium stayed with the small stadium formula but optimized the fan experience.
To be honest, a good stadium design hasn’t changed much in the past 2000 years. The Roman Colosseum could seat 50,000 spectators. This structure used earth-moving processes and concrete construction similar to today’s efforts. The complex system of trap-doors and ability to convert to a lake for water battles are pretty notable. The structure had a lot of versatility built-in. Architectural historians are pretty sure the stadium even had a retractable fabric roof, either supported from poles or using catenary action in an inverted dome sytem. Throw in the advanced plumbing system, beer and bread vendors, and free admission (yes, free) and you might even think our designs have regressed.
Cross Section of the Flavian Amphitheatre (Colosseum)
Cross Section of the Lucas Oil Stadium
But there is a huge difference between the Lucas Oil Stadium and a simple outdoor stadium (modern or ancient). Lucas Oil Stadium gives the power to completely control the weather element. During nice weather, the stadium is open at the top and side. During extreme weather events or hot/cold seasons, the stadium can be closed up and operated as a conditioned space. This doesn’t matter as much for a simple game like football which should be played outdoor as much as possible, but for other events like RV shows, Final Four basketball games, or high school band competitions it is essential. The real benefit here is certainty. Indy can guarantee that large events can be hosted anytime of the year without worry. The added bonus of holding the event in a sports stadium lends a certain amount of clout to the event as well. This gives a huge advantage in securing conventions and events. Versatility is the key here, and it only costs money.
Enclosing a volume such as Lucas Oil Stadium is no easy task. The wind force on such a large surface area can build up to incredible levels. There are no floor diaphragms to help distribute the loads evenly around the building. The brick facade and sensitive roof mechanisms demand a very stiff frame, as any movements can cause cracking or throw off the alignment of the retractable roof system. This is where the experience of Walter P. Moore as a company is tremendously important. The structural system concept was based on previous successful methods, but also different from any previous system because of the unique roof configuration.
If you refer to the photo above you can see the most important piece of structure: the Supertruss. There are two of these above each sideline in the North-South direction, and they support a large percentage of the roof loading. The supertrusses are essentially portal frames, which means they resist moment at the transition from vertical to horizontal. This behavior is in contrast with a typical post & beam system which allows the beam ends to rotate freely. The advantage of using the portal frame is a much stiffer structural member; the penalty is dealing with the insanely large forces that develop inside the member. I recall a Walter P. Moore designer telling me that the moment in Reliant Stadium supercolumns were being measured in “kip-miles”, I would assume a similar situation would occur in the Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Supertrusses develop internal forces using truss behavior, with top and bottom chords, diagonal web members, and gusset plates tying everything together. I don’t know the dimensions of the members used, but the weight of even a single gusset plate on one of LOS’s supertrusses is probably heavier than a typical truss used in one of my projects. The supertrusses are massive in every sense of the word.
Here you can see the supertruss as it connects to the foundation system. I should probably point out that major projects like the LOS stadium can have well past 50% of the structural cost in foundation costs. In this particular case, the civil engineers had to account for underground utilities including a new pedestrian tunnel linking to the convention center in addition to all sorts of wastewater, electrical, and telecom trunk lines. Just locating all these services is a major task unto itself. Accommodating them or building around them certainly adds a challenge to the already difficult situation. In the case of the LOS, one entire corner of the building had to supported by an underground bridge across an existing CSO line.
When you look at Lucas Oil Stadium, try to visualize a huge network of piers, concrete pads, and a huge mass of soil supporting all the weight. Buildings don’t just sit on the ground, they interact with them and become part of the earth. Just like the root system of a tree, a building is truly part of the subsurface environment. But referring back to the photo of the supertruss base connection, I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to see they left this part exposed. Here is the exact location where most of the weight and wind force is transferred into the foundation. It is an incredibly important structural relationship, and I am glad they celebrated it.
I have included a few shots of the supertruss as it continues up the levels and transitions to a horizontal member. I am so glad they left this portion exposed, these components are usually hidden behind walls and gypsum, so it quite special to see it. It really is a great representation of the strength of the building. Next up is the minor trusses. They aren’t “supertrusses”, but they aren’t so bad, either.
Steel framing under construction
You can see the truss poking out at roof level
The smaller trusses intersecting at right angles to the supertrusses serve a few purposes. First, they carry the wind loads down to the framing in the other direction. Next, they prevent buckling of the supertrusses. Finally, they provide a rail for the roof to travel along and set the gabled roof profile. Most importantly, though, they look pretty cool. There are five of these trusses in the East-West direction. You can see them on the inside of the building or poking out from the top of the walls.
Going back to the construction video, you can see several phases of construction. The first is the foundation and earthwork. The playing surface of the stadium was lowered a few stories for some practical reasons. The stadium seating starts first, and then the first supertruss (west side) starts going up. The temporary erection structures for the supertruss are large enough to be considered a separate project, I would imagine. As time progresses, the gable trusses are installed in pieces. The other supertruss (east side) goes up, and the gable trusses are finished. About this time, you can see the cladding being applied. This isn’t fake brickwork or metal panels painted brick red (well, not very many at least). The masons assembled brickwork into large panels which were then lifted and set into place. I thought that part was pretty clever too, it sped things up and kept the masons safely on the ground.
The final parts of the video show the roofing, windows, and finishes being installed. The finish installation is a pretty rapid process compared to the overall project, but it probably is the most rewarding for the builders. Up until that point, everyone is really operating on faith that the designers knew what they were doing, so seeing the actual product assembled and functioning takes a lot of stress off of everyone involved. And besides, it’s pretty freakin sweet just to see the biggest operable window in the city opening up.
East side entry lobby – insert huge fan pun joke here
I also wanted to show some photos of the general interior. The huge fans were a great touch, they really push the whole industrial feeling of the space, and they certainly get the job done. I wish they had more stairwells or escalators, but most spectators will get to their seats using a really long ramp system. It’s wacky and kind of boring, definitely the biggest missed opportunity of the design.
Makes a person wonder… where the hell am I, and where am I going?
The past decade or so has been absolutely wonderful for the world of Tall Buildings and cutting edge architecture. Certainly the wide availability of loans and new wealth in emerging markets coupled with rising real estate speculation has made this possible. With the inevitable economic contraction after our recent boom, we are now faced with a different environment, one where clients and owners need to justify their spending instead of building to impress.
Don’t get me wrong, the buildings that have gone up over the past few years have been great and probably worth the high costs. They will become emblematic of an era, and will continue to serve as icons of economic power for the countries and companies they represent. However, the recent pace of construction was unsustainable, and now we are entering a new period where iconic projects are less common. Read all the bad news in this article by Spiegel.
Now that clients and owners are focusing on the actual costs and maintenance of a building in addition to its marketability, building designers have an opportunity to sell sustainable development. This is more than providing a wind turbine to power a few exterior lights. It’s a complete and systematic view of the building and its environment.
My friend and I collaborated on conceptual design last year for a critiqued design project. It was a lot of fun, I ended up contributing very little to the finished product but it was fun to be involved.
The basic concept was simple, design a skyscraper. Here was our response:
Architectural contests are great because they really push your thinking to new areas. You know from the beginning that many entries will be received so you have to go big or go home. Some of the best modern buildings had their start as inspirations during a design contest. For those willing to have a go at it, there are always plenty of competitions published on Bustler.net
We didn’t win, but honestly I don’t think that was the important part. I learned a lot more about what architects go through, and it reinforced the fact that what architects and engineers do are entirely different things. And in the end, I preferred my job.
Everyone who is an architect, engineer, contractor, or just likes tall buildings ought to know that CTBUH has just put the 2008 World Congress (held in Dubai) videos online.
I also want to extend my congratulations to CTBUH for hosting a successful World Congress and sharing all the information freely. You may have ruined every Friday night for the next few months by putting these videos up, but I’m very appreciative.
Oftentimes, while reading an architectural blog or a fancy magazine, I come across comments to the effect of “we don’t need another brown, boring, ugly building” or “all structures should be interesting and add value to their surroundings.” It’s a pretty thought, but the construction industry isn’t going to be following that recommendation anytime soon.
For starters, good design costs money. It sometimes costs a lot of money. A famous architect or engineer can bring a lot of clout and notoriety to an otherwise unknown project, but there is no guarantee that he or she will deliver additional value. And if it’s one thing that owners want, it is good value. Just the same as you or I when we are deciding what to buy at the grocery store or picking out which cable channel package to pay for. It’s all about value.
The construction industry is full of examples where highly compensated designers failed to provide a structure that met the requirements of the owners. I don’t think we should blame the designers, because you’ll have problems in any large project but only the famous architects get written up in the press because of it. But the fact of the matter is that highly ambitious projects are going to face more problems. There is a greater risk when the owner asks for a paradigm breaking building – simply because nobody else has done it before. And there also a cost premium during construction.
Contrast this with the boring, ugly buildings you see around you everyday. The homes with the fake shutters, fake balconies, and mismatched window styles. Or the strip mall with fake stucco. Or the industrial building made from vertical precast double-tee sections. Are the owners unhappy with these buildings? Probably not, or they would have been torn down by now. All of these buildings serve a purpose, are well used and maintained, and probably cost significantly less than a limestone facade with ornamental niches or a post-modern steel sculpture.
Ugly buildings often serve a purpose. They help make communities livable. They allow economic activity to continue without an architectural standard taxation on construction. If a structure is well-built and maintained, it will always have value.