Soccer Stadium Undergoes Transformation in Portland, Oregon
by Keith Alnwick, director of research, Allied Works Architecture
In 2017, Peregrine Sports LLC, owner of the Portland Timbers Major League Soccer team and Portland Thorns FC National Women’s Soccer League team, unveiled plans for a renovation and major expansion to Providence Park, the clubs’ 93-year-old historic home in the Goose Hollow neighborhood of Portland, Oregon. Designed by Allied Works, Portland, the privately-funded, 4,000-seat, three-level structure provides dramatic views of the field for individuals and groups while maintaining an open public arcade and street-level concourse.
The Providence Park expansion exemplifies Allied Works’ unique and holistic approach to design, one that is grounded in intensive research, builds upon experience with high-profile and complex projects of all types, and seeks new insight into the possibilities inherent in each place and purpose. It’s a new way of thinking about stadium design, one which sees each project for its civic value and unique spectator experience. Drawing on decades of museum and cultural design expertise, Allied Works’ design elevates the stadium’s presence, deepening the experience of the game, the collective potential of the club, and its connection to supporters and the communities they represent. The expansion strengthens and preserves the historic legacy of Providence Park, while bringing a heightened identity for the Timbers and Thorns, and a new landmark to downtown Portland.
Inspired by beloved soccer stadiums and open-air arenas all over the world, from La Bombonera in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to the original Globe Theater in London, England, the expansion comprises a multi-level concourse, three tiers of new seats, and a soaring canopy. Altogether, these elements create a vertical wall that puts viewers on top of the action, adding to the legendary atmosphere of Providence Park. Designed in 1925 by noted architects A.E. Doyle and Morris Whitehouse and only partially constructed, the expansion completes the vision for the original stadium while adding a distinctly modern, open, and transparent new form. Composed of many elements and layers of history, the character and experience of Providence Park is wholly unique and distinctly Portland, creating one of the true cathedrals of soccer in all of North America.
“Brad Cloepfil and his team at Allied Works were the obvious partners for this project. The firm is distinguished for its modern, innovative designs that respect a project’s site and identity of place. Furthermore, as a native Oregonian and a fierce Timbers fan, Cloepfil understands on a personal level the significance of this project for the teams and fans alike. His vision for the expansion builds upon the history of the field and, through its seamless integrated design, helps to create an incredibly dynamic experience,” said Mike Golub, president of business for the Timbers and Thorns FC.
While the original designs for the stadium envisioned a heavy, concrete arcade, Allied Works’ design reveals a structure of open steel lacework, revealing layers of people, light, and activity. A scrim of steel tension structure forms a textile-like façade for the expansion that rises three levels above the street. At the sidewalk, fans walk under a covered public passage the length of the stadium, with sight lines into the field. The first and second concourse levels are shielded in glass, and the open-air, third-level concourse doubles as an event deck with panoramic views of the city, the West Hills, and the Cascade Range.
“The eastside expansion of Providence Park creates a new urban stadium type. It is a transparent civic platform revealing the life of the game both on the field and in the stands, inviting at street level and alive on the floors above. Inside the stadium, the addition creates a near-vertical wall, amplifying an already intimidating ground for visiting teams, elevating and echoing the sound and energy created by supporters groups in the North End, and fans throughout the stadium. Rather than the cloistered compound originally envisioned, the new building is an open arcade, veiled in a steel structure that rises from the street and cantilevers over the stands in a woven cloud, amplifying the addition’s transparency and binding the activity on the field to its urban and regional context.”