The transformation of sport from a religious-ritual-turned-spectacle into a 1.5 trillion dollar worldwide marketplace says a lot about our global culture. “God, family, and the Green Bay Packers,” right? Since the eighth century BCE and the original Olympic games, sports culture has captivated our innate desire to compete and gather as humans. Throughout modern history, sports have largely defined who we are as people, and how we collectively handle conflict and resolution through the perceived social norms of our time. It is for this reason that sporting event venues have, save for technology- or comfort-based improvements, gone utterly unchanged since ancient times. The architecture of the stadium has remained civic, political, social, religious, artistic, and academic, all at once, and as such, its design and construction have never been more complicated than in today’s climate of hyper-obsession with sports entertainment. Enter the world of Bryan Trubey, FAIA.
A fourth generation Oak Cliff and Dallas native, Trubey doesn’t immediately strike you as the guy you’d expect to indulge in such exuberant productions as AT&T Stadium or U.S. Bank Stadium, the soon-to-be home of the Minnesota Vikings. Trubey is soft-spoken on a tall, healthy frame, and he prefers time with his family over all things work or sport. If you stick around him long enough, you might even hear a slight drawl, but don’t let it fool you; he’s a sharp and well-traveled man, a perfect fit to navigate the outrageous world of sport and stadium design.
After graduating from Texas A&M in 1983, Trubey took a job in Kansas City with another firm’s sports practice. There, he led the design and production of the national stadium in Hong Kong, a reference point from which AT&T stadium likely stems. When HKS decided to enter the sports and entertainment market in the early 1990s, Trubey moved back to his hometown to help start the new endeavor. Over the course of 20 years, Trubey and his team — which is now a global effort — have designed projects in a variety of contexts for various sports franchises throughout the world, a process that is always changing and progressing. There’s one element, however, that remains constant, and that is the civic nature of the spectacle: Trubey’s focus is the innate enjoyment that people experience in such a stadium environment.
“It could be argued that the stadium is the ultimate civic setting, and likely has been for a long time,” says Trubey. “And while that has been complicated or propelled by way of television rights, advertising, etc., the stadium is still developed for the users’ experience. There are basic principles that one should follow to be successful, and what we create must be beautiful. The other reason they come to HKS is because we are the only ones who have consistently evolved these types of projects over the years, alongside a few other competitors, and have developed the data to show an owner how to achieve optimum performance in terms of sustainability, revenue generation, and user experience, whether that’s London, Sydney, São Paulo, or Dallas, Texas.”
The hard part, not surprisingly, is politics. Fortunately, projects of this scale are often part of a larger master plan. They involve creative funding efforts, or there may be some political agenda entwined around the big picture. “Many times we are the most experienced entity at the table. We are primary contributors to the strategy around all these issues.” says Trubey.
At the end of the day, Trubey was excited to do right by his hometown. He’s lived the dream of designing a stadium for his home team — the Dallas Cowboys — and engaged a market that previously didn’t exist here. On the concept of “import/export” Trubey states, “You know, architecture isn’t always about business, but it is an interesting thing to be able to bring such a market and economy back to Dallas. That idea not only allows HKS to flourish, but the city at large [as well], and that really took off with AT&T Stadium. Having the chance to export such a wealth of knowledge to the world and give back through specialized architectural skills is a transforming endeavor.”
Trubey is proof that the world of sports and entertainment is not always lavish or over-indulgent, but disciplined and well-rounded; not muddled or partial, but concise and complete. He is an exception to the rule in an environment where the rules are always changing.
Ryan Flener, Assoc. AIA, is an intern architect at Good, Fulton & Farrell.