May 2013 Newsletter

Renovating Classic Sports Venues: Designer Beware!

Renovations of classic structures frequently present challenges, but when the structure is a revered sports stadium, the challenges multiply.

Take the proposed renovations of Wrigley Field, home to the Chicago Cubs. The stadium was built in 1914, and is now the second-oldest Major League baseball stadium in the country (after Boston’s Fenway Park). Wrigley Field is so beloved that it’s safe to say that a large percentage of people who attend games barely care about what’s happening on the field. They come for the classic atmosphere and party mood more than for the actual game.

Wrigley Renovation
Wrigley Renovation

Nevertheless, Wrigley Field is a place of business, and the owners have decided a renovated stadium will make them more money than the current iteration. Imagine the challenge for the design firm tasked with that project.

No firm has been named as of yet, but plenty of people have weighed in on the sketches of the proposed changes. The most noise comes from people who are unhappy about the proposed 6,000-square-foot “Jumbotron” screen planned for the outfield and from owners of the buildings beyond the outfield walls, who make a lot of money renting out the bleachers set up on their rooftops.

Chicago Tribune architecture critic Cheryl Kent fired a salvo at the proposed design in late April. She hates the jumbotron – “People at Cubs’ games do not sit slack-jawed looking at video in between plays or innings,” she writes – and she’s unhappy about the idea of moving the outfield walls back 10 feet, consuming some surrounding sidewalk. “Were the plan suggested so far to be fully implemented, Wrigley would be fundamentally damaged to dubious purpose,” Kent writes.

Whichever design firm gets this assignment should read the criticism the designers of the renovated Soldier Field received when they plopped a giant saucer on top of that stadium, home to the Chicago Bears.

Consider this article in the New York Times on June 16, 2003:

“It looks like a U.F.O. crash-landed on an ancient ruin; it’s a giant egg in a giant egg cup; it’s like a fat man trying to wedge himself into a skinny man’s shorts.

“Those are some of the things people here are saying about a futuristic renovation of Soldier Field that is under way. The project is quite the topic of conversation among architects and authors and just about anyone who drives by. Not much of it is flattering.” (Click here to read the whole article:

The problem with Soldier Field, built in 1924, was its size and lack of amenities, two things the Bears wanted more of. But no one wanted to tear down the original stadium, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was deeply entrenched in Chicago’s collective psyche. So Chicago architect Dirk Lohan and Boston architect Benjamin T. Wood designed a modern stadium that fit on top of the historic stadium, and the result was pretty ugly.

The “eyesore on the lake shore,” was how Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamen described it. Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman called the renovation “a fiasco.”

But the $632 million renovation did what it was supposed to do – it made the stadium comparable to modern NFL stadiums. It has luxury skyboxes, better concessions, a new parking garage, and more.

And, eventually, some architecture critics came around. The AIA gave it an award for design excellence in 2004, and the New York Times ranked it as one of the five best new buildings in 2003.

However, those favoring the historic field had the last word:  Soldier Field lost its landmark designation in 2006.

A/E/C in the Cloud

Five Cloud-Based Applications to Try

The “cloud” is everywhere in the news these days, and for good reason. Using cloud-based file storage and applications costs less than buying software outright; it eliminates the worry about upgrading, because everything is upgraded in the cloud; it makes long-distance collaboration easy; and it can give you virtually unlimited storage space with zero extra hardware investment. Here are five cloud applications A/E/C professionals should consider:

  1. GTeam. Frank Gehry has long been known for his architecture, but lately he’s also broken ground in design technology. GTeam is a digital system for sharing and working on architectural plans and other types of BIM. Gehry’s firm, Gehry Technologies, has partnered with cloud-based storage firm Box — — to make GTeam widely available. Click here for more info and to begin a 15-day free trial:
  1. Autodesk 360. Autodesk is a well respected name in AEC, so it’s no surprise that its cloud solutions are also respected. Autodesk 360 is a cloud-based package that includes Autodesk BIM 360, Autodesk PLM 360, and Autodesk Simulation 360. Check them all out here
  2. Adobe Creative Cloud. If it’s time for you to upgrade your Adobe Creative Suite, and you want to go the conventional route and download software to your computer, you’re looking at an investment of $1,299 to $2,599, depending on your needs. Or you can access the entire suite, and more, for $49.99 per month. Not only is your cash outlay lower, but you never have to worry about upgrading again. Click here for more info
  3. Intuit Online Payroll. There are plenty of cloud-based payroll systems available; this one is inexpensive and effective for small firms, and syncs with Quickbooks, if you use that. Intuit Online Payroll handles all the basics – creating paychecks, calculating taxes and paying them online, and filing the related paperwork with state and federal authorities. At $29 per month plus $1.50 per employee, it’s a bargain. Check it out at
  4. Grasshopper. In the old days – say five years ago – when you set up your office, you needed to call the phone company, hire an installer, buy a fancy system, etc. Now you can get a cloud-based phone system and forget all that. is one of the most popular cloud-based phone systems (though there are plenty of others), and it costs anywhere from $12 to $199 per month, depending on your needs. All plans include voicemail, call forwarding, unlimited extensions, and more features. Check it out at


5 Top Reasons Your Next Wide Format Printer Should be Color

Are you considering adding or replacing a wide format printer? Here are five reasons it should be a color printer:

  1. Color makes wide format documents more understandable.
  2. Errors, delays, and rework are significantly reduced when documents contain color.
  3. Having your own wide format color printer saves you up to 67% over outsourcing color printing.
  4. Color printers come in a variety of configurations that fit any firm’s size, budget, and print volume.
  5. The barriers to entry for wide format color – both printing and scanning — have never been lower. Now is the time!

Visit to review the variety of Canon and HP color inkjet printers and multifunction systems. Contact Steve Coyle at 512.381.5271 for a consultation. Miller Blueprint Co. offers leasing, rental and managed print services options.


Amazing Architecture: Hospital Edition



ArchiQuiz: Who were the general contractors on these five famous structures? (Answers in red)

Sears Tower (Willis Tower)

Diesel Construction. The firm was later known as Morse Diesel, Inc., and is now AMEC Construction Management, Inc.

Empire State Building

Starrett Brothers and Eken, a firm known as the “premier skyline builders” of the 1920s.

The Pentagon

John McShain, a Philadelphia builder known as the “The Man Who Built Washington.”

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Gilbane Building Company

Wrigley Building, Chicago

Lanquist & Illsley, a well known Chicago builder that is no longer in business



Being Green: Showerhead Edition

The Evolve Roadrunner showerhead features a “trickle” function that prevents warm water from being wasted while the shower warms up:

EcoFlow Shower Heads from Waterpik can save $100 per year:

The new Bravo PC Showerhead from Bricor uses pressure compensated vacuum flow physics to boost the flow stream:

The Moen Nurture handheld showerhead uses 30 percent less water than a conventional handheld:

High Sierra Showerheads, designed for commercial facilities, use 40 percent less water than standard low flow showerheads:



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