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GWCCA committee approves 360 Architecture for stadium design

By Maria Saporta

The firm of 360 Architecture moved one step closer to designing the new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons.

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority’s Stadium Development Committee unanimously voted Monday afternoon to recommend 360 to the full board when it meets Tuesday afternoon. At that time, the board will be given a full set of the negotiated terms of the agreement that GWCCA has reached with 360.

Before the vote, William Johnson, senior principal with 360 Architecture, made a presentation to the committee where he unveiled a couple of different concepts of how the retractable roof on the new stadium could work.

One circular concept included a swirling roof design of smaller, lighter roof panels that would open up to the full length of the football field in between five to seven minutes. Johnson called that concept the Pantheon of Atlanta design.

The other design was a rectangular stadium where to large roof panels would pull back into wing-like structures in under 12 minutes. Johnson called that one the Solarium concept.

“I’m absolutely the happiest guy in the room,” Johnson said about being selected as the architect for the new stadium.

Johnson, who is based in Kansas City, Mo., said the biggest challenge is to “re-imagine the whole game-day experience” to make sure fans don’t stay in the comfort of their home and watch the games on television.

The first step Johnson made was to bring together some of the most creative people together to rethink how retractable roofs could be designed. His team included Buro Happold, Chuck Hoberman and WSP – Flack + Kurtz. They held a workshop in New York City where they decided to forget traditional retractable roof models and start from scratch.

Johnson said there have been “a number of new buildings that didn’t break any new ground,” and “some of these roofs only open five to sis times of year” — making them not a sound economic investment for a professional sports team.

“We have a watershed moment,” Johnson said of the new Atlanta Falcons stadium.

Instead of going the traditional route with “very big, and very heavy” roof structures, Johnson said they decided to go with smaller pieces with lighter weight. That also would help make the building more environmentally sustainable — maximizing Atlanta’s moderate “mid-season environment” by allowing for maximum natural ventilation.

The presentation also included novel ways that sponsors and scores and plays could be shared with fans throughout the stadium — to increase the number of “look-up” moments instead of the “look-down” moments of people looking at their phones or mobile devices.

Once the GWCCA board approves the 360 agreement, Johnson said it will begin having conversations with other architects about joining the team. It is quite possible that 360 will team up with some of the firms that were shortlisted in the GWCCA selection process.

Although Johnson did not discuss how the stadium would fit in with the surrounding community, Frank Poe, GWCCA’s executive director, said that was an important part of the selection process.

“It was very much a part of the presentation,” Poe said. “Community interaction and community engagement was an important part of what we looked at.”

In addition to selecting an architect, GWCCA and the Atlanta Falcons also are moving forward with the process to select a general contractor and an owner’s representative, which would oversee the construction of the stadium.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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