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October 9, 2008

Now that the Los Angeles Dodgers have advanced to the next round of the baseball playoffs, it's a good time to consider the team's contribution to modern architectural history: Dodger Stadium.

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This week, television viewers can get a glimpse of the clean lines and space-age quirks of the concrete amphitheater in Chavez Ravine, including the accordion-folded metal roof of the pavilion in center field; the perfectly framed sunset views of palm trees behind the Jumbotron; and the topiaries cut into space-age lozenges dotting the terraced entrances to the different seating levels. The stadium was designed by architect Captain Emil Praeger (USN) in consultation with legendary former Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley, whose ideas for the new home of his transplanted Brooklyn Dodgers were influenced by journeys to Japan and Disneyland.


 
Since Dodger Stadium was opened in 1962, eleven major league baseball stadiums have been built and demolished–not counting the Mets' Shea Stadium (1964) , which is next on the chopping block. Dodger Stadium's longevity is an argument for the modernist ethos, which, put colloquially, is that good, smart design is timeless.
 
Architecture isn't ageless however, so in 2006 the Dodgers embarked on a revamping project that so far hasn't messed with any of the stadium's major design elements, while updating some of its less-than-stellar anachronisms (e.g., the steel troughs in the men's' restrooms). Improvements by L.A.-based HKS Architecture include upgraded seats (in the original '60s hues of harvest gold and royal blue) and modern-ish fonts on the Dodger Dog counters. More substantial improvements that will develop over a multi-year plan include a "green necklace" surrounding the park, and bringing the stadium's physical plant up to silver LEED sustainability standards.

 
 
Of course, there are the usual money-making schemes, including a bizarre Quonset-hut-like souvenir store hulking outside the entrance to the field-level seats. But whenever a modern classic is renovated rather than torn down, everybody wins.

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