A (Cross) Road Not Taken

Notre Dame recently announced the Crossroads Project, a combination of Stadium enhancement and academic building expansion initiative, but long time NDNation contributor Tim Kress (aka NDRoman21) has a better approach. Here’s his story.

Aerial ViewA little over four years ago, when the discussions of a JumboTron in Notre Dame Stadium were gaining steam, I put together a preliminary design concept for a renovation that would bring the venue up to the standards of today’s pre-eminent college and NFL programs. While I didn’t believe a renovation was necessary, the writing was on the wall, and I wanted to show that it could be done in a manner befitting the historic structure. I viewed it as an opportunity to correct the mistakes of the 1997 stadium expansion. With encouragement from my friends at NDNation, I assembled a conceptual design package and forwarded it to the powers-that-be at Notre Dame. I received a cordial reply from Jack Swarbrick thanking me for the effort, but stating that there were no current plans for any changes to the stadium.

Two years later, Notre Dame released its initial study of the eventual “Crossroads” project, which expanded beyond the purely football-based scope I had envisioned. The idea had great potential–but the architecture, seemingly based on recent additions to ND’s sports facilities such as Purcell Pavilion and Compton Family Ice Center–was rather bland. I wrote another letter to Jack Swarbrick encouraging him to look to the original stadium as a design precedent. I received no reply.

A few months ago, “ND Crossroads” was officially announced. I was disappointed. While the architects obviously looked to the original stadium for precedent, they did so only for architectural details. The proposed massing of three large masonry buildings surrounding the 1997 expansion makes no reference to the simple, elegant bowl structure of the original. Rather, it is in direct contradiction to it.

I remain convinced that for a building as iconic as Notre Dame Stadium, the conceptual program should adjust to the architectural form, and not vice versa. The Crossroads project could be adjusted to work in a form that pays homage to the original stadium and, to a lesser extent, the expansion. This would tell the story of the stadium’s architectural history, while restoring some of the sense of place lost in 1997.

With that in mind, I put together a revised concept over the course of an evening and posted it. Encouraged by the response and to satisfy my own creative drive, I then spent countless hours refining and further detailing that concept into a structure that (i) meets the needs of the “Crossroads” program; (ii) corrects mistakes made in 1997; and (iii) restores a sense of place to The House that Rockne Built.

For a look at all of the renderings, please visit this website

Please direct any inquiries to Tim Kress at tkress@alumni.nd.edu


24 thoughts on “A (Cross) Road Not Taken

  1. GeronimoRumplestiltskin says:

    “or a building as iconic as Notre Dame Stadium”

    Have seen little evidence that the powers-that-be have viewed the either the stadium or the football program as “iconic” for quite some time now. They are a cash cow to be milked, no more and no less.

    • I agree completely, and it is one of the main reasons that I have become more and more disillusioned with Notre Dame–an empty shell of the university it should be, focused exclusively on filling that hollowness with money.

  2. I know as much about architecture as I do time travel. That said, these photos are far more pleasing to my eye than those of the Crossroads project. While I have the impression that the latter is a noble attempt to impress the public with the university’s unique offering of the spiritual, intellectual and athletic, it succeeds only in overwhelming the viewer by its sheer uncoordinated size and rather clumsy pretense. Crossroads reminds me of a two year old who, desperately wanting to impress the next door neighbors of his new found ability to do somersaults, gleefully yells, “Look what I can do!”

    But this new (to me) initiative harmonizes the past and present with a sense of the university’s potential, i.e., to succeed in every worthwhile field of human endeavor. It’s also a stunning paradox because it creates an emotional feel of stately permanence, tranquility and comfort for the many exciting, indeed, breathtaking contests that will occur at its core. It not only blends, it “moves” — with ND’s mission, its campus and our memories of past victories and future triumphs. To put it another way, I’m gazing at a thrilling monument that spans the generations of its loyal sons and daughters. Love it.

  3. It had been a while since I looked at the Crossroads project. After viewing Tim Kress’ concepts I ventured back and looked the the Crossroads concepts. Wow! The eyesore and gaudiness of Crossroads really “pops” after viewing Tim’s work. From overhead, outside and inside Tim’s vision is hands-down better. I’m sure there are some functional limitations that would require changes to meet the Crossroads “needs”, but Tim’s design is one hell of a better starting point.

  4. I think the feel of the old redbrick football stadium is as lost as the old Field House. I don’t think any expansion will bring that back. Having said that I prefer this design. The Cross Roads project doesn’t make any sense to me at all. The stadium should stand alone.

  5. I get tired of ND’s administration being blamed for every litle thing people don’t like about ND, but this rendering looks better than the stadium project planned by ND.

  6. NDRoman21’s designs are superior to the CrossRoad’s gaudy concept. It would be interesting if someone placed the two sets of designs side-by-side and posted them next to each other. That way, NDRoman21’s design supremacy would be even that much more apparent.

  7. So, so much better than what the tone-deaf, cloistered ND administration has selected. Your design might actually convince me to return to Notre Dame Stadium, instead of chasing me further away, as the indulgent, obtrusive Crossroads project will.

  8. ND fans love tradition and are slow to warm to (read “violently oppose, at first”) almost every innovation. If I had to bet, I’d wager that in a dozen years we will have come to love the Crossroads design and will brag about its uniqueness in blending the academic and athletic sides of the university. But kudos to Mr. Kress for the considerable effort behind his worthy alternative.

  9. I like your design and I think it deserves(ed) respectful consideration. I’m sorry for many, including you, that it didn’t receive such consideration.

  10. Geoffrey '73 says:

    Remember the old Fieldhouse? Before I saw my first football game ever, the students broke into the old Fieldhouse, which was locked up as unsafe, and there was an unofficial rally.

  11. I agree these renderings look great and aesthetically destroy the Crossroads project, but I do have one question for whoever might be able to answer it: How much money would this cost?

    I understand a lot of the people who post here decried the fact that the university poured around $400M into the Crossroads project, but (and this is an extremely rough estimate) I can’t see this proposal costing any less than double that figure. By connecting the building all the way around, you have that much more site prep, excavation, building material, (and so on and so forth) necessary to expand this stadium.

    To make a longer story short, I think a better comparison might’ve been to give a $400M dollar budget and see what could be matched, rather than square footage. (Sorry, I have a construction background). So I agree, if we had the money, this would be a great option. But getting $800M-$1B to finance a stadium expansion when you could tear down and rebuild for less than that would be difficult.

    • Respectfully, I think your estimate is unrealistic. There’s no way that shifting some space from the upper levels of the 3 building to the corners and the north end could double the cost of the project. At this stage of a project, it is probably being estimated by square footage, and $400MM / 750k SF yields $533/SF. That’s a hell of an expensive building for South Bend, IN. Take into account the fact that my facade is far simpler, with less terracing and far more repetitive elements (which, of course, bring cost down) and I’d be shocked if it couldn’t be built for the Crossroads’ $400MM price tag.

  12. I am continually amazed at how a school with a top-drawer architectural school allows some of the stuff that they have over the years. The time period from the new bookstore-onward is much better than that which preceded it, but still…and then Crossroads…sigh.

    Go ask one of those profs what they think.

  13. ElkhartIrish says:

    If ND did what it’s supposed to do and was really a Catholic university, dedicated to promoting the integral Catholic Faith, there would be no problem with either money or building whatever great stadium they wanted to build.

  14. I like Tim’s drawings, but this renovation is of the stadium only. The University is trying (rightly or wrongly) to add significant class room space. Obviously, they want to accomplish far more than a stadium renovation

    • Mike Coffey says:

      Tim’s renovation adds just as much square footage (if not more) than the planned version. It includes just as much classroom space.

  15. Wow that is simply stunning, Tim! If I had a vote or say, I would certainly say your vision is much more appealing. I wouldn’t mind seeing that renovation to the stadium.

  16. domerboyirish says:

    Oh, where do I start? Back in 1990 I was part of a seven student created independent study to do a design and feasibility study to expand the ND Stadium. We did a ton of research and had a few meeting with Father Beauchamp and Dick Rosenthal regarding our designs. This was 1990 so Cad was limited and we had to make a model out of metal and cardboard. It took a heck of a lot longer than the three credit hours we were awarded.

    Way back then, one of the concepts that we were directed to explore the idea of adding ‘buildings’ to the stadium using the back sides of the roofs as an extension of the bowl. The idea was to add seats, limit the perceived height of the structure and to add essential facilities for the football program. The facilities were meant to be football offices and many other things currently found in the Gug. Ultimately we moved away from this concept for several reasons; we were not going to get enough additional seating to make it worthwhile, the structure was still going to be on the other side of the Joyce Center from the practice fields and there was some rumors of this thing called a Debartalo thing that might take some of the necessary space.

    Our final designs were not used / copied as we had a horseshoe design with the north end open for TD Jesus, however, I was informed that our information was used by Beauchamp and Rosenthal at the Trustee level to help push the decisions for the ’97 expansion. I believe our estimate at the time was $34M. Our designs were very similar to Tim’s design. You had to be respectful of the House that Rock built. Arches, red brick, repetitive colonnades, etc. We felt that these were vital to the design and are missing from the ’97 addition. Tim’s drawings bring that concept back into play.

    Things I would comment on:
    □ While the upper levels need to appear ‘lighter’ on the exterior, I would minimize the amounts of glass portrayed in these renderings. I would add multiple narrower, arches between the pilasters, replicating the bays of the old stadium.
    □ I am concerned, with all concepts seen to date, that the box seating is too far from the field. How is the view now from the top row? I know ND doesn’t want to sacrifice revenue but I would almost lose the top level of box seats and partially cantilever the box seats over the top of the current bowl by about 10 rows.
    □ For stadium design, everyone should read the work published by current ND professor Phillip Bess. His book City Baseball Magic from 1989 will blow your mind if you are interested in stadiums. Even though it is for baseball, many of his thoughts and references would really apply to this project.

    • Thanks for the response. Really, really interesting stuff. It saddens me more than there was input into the original expansion that was more respectful of the original stadium, but was ignored. I really, really don’t understand it.

      In response to your comments, we’ll just have to agree to disagree on the upper bowl. I think it needs to reflect the masonry base, but be as light and airy as it can be, which is what I tried to accomplish. It also, to some extent, reflects the detailing of the only part of the expansion that I like, the pressbox. This reflects the history of that expansion, which did happen, whether I like it or not.

      I think the box seating and club area views will be on par with other college and pro stadia. It’s very similar to the setup at Lambeau field. If you go towards the end of the flickr gallery, there’s a view from the first row of the club seating.

      I’ve read Bess’ book, though I didn’t have the privilege of meeting him, as he came to Notre Dame a year or two after I graduated.

      Thanks again for the response.

      • domerboyirish says:

        My pleasure. I’d be very interested in continuing this conversation as the project moves forward. It’s really interesting stuff…