Ask an architecture critic: Why do new Wrigley Field bleachers suck?

The redesigned Wrigley Field bleachers are finally complete, and architecture critic Edward Keegan is here in Crain’s Chicago to tell you what he thinks of the new design. Perhaps surprisingly, he doesn’t mind the video boards — the new right-field board is “slightly smaller than the old one and comfortably set as far from centerfield as possible,” while the larger left field board he “won’t quibble with as a 21st century necessity.” But he does complain about the new expanded bleachers blocking the views of surrounding rooftops (not from rooftops, mind you, but of them), and the way the new bleachers structure was designed in the first place:

Seldom noted is the essential early 20th century industrial nature that has always defined the construction of Wrigley Field’s grandstands. Columns are small—and created from elaborate confections of even smaller steel elements. Trusses that support the larger structures—the upper deck, the roof, and the old center field scoreboard—are likewise minimal and elegant in their industrial forthrightness. The Landmarks designation ordinance cites the “exposed structural system” as a protected feature and it should have provided the architects with a guide for the new work.

Instead, the new bleachers and video boards are designed with the bluntness of a highway with columns and beams that are immense in comparison to their predecessors. It’s the design equivalent of the Dan Ryan or Kennedy expressways slicing through old Chicago neighborhoods with complete disregard for their surroundings and their visual impact.

I’m having a hard time finding a photo of the new bleachers in their entirety for some reason, but here’s a photo from Bleed Cubbie Blue showing the big-ass video board support girders. It probably wouldn’t be the first thing I’d complain about, but Keegan does have a point:

IMG_1410.0Anyone who’s been to Cubs games this week care to comment, or share photos?

5 comments on “Ask an architecture critic: Why do new Wrigley Field bleachers suck?

  1. Check out the picture posted on June 11 here:

    It shows the entire, completed outfield bleachers.


  3. Thanks, Brian! Still not the best angle, but I can see where the beams look, as art directors I knew used to say, a bit horsey.

  4. I can’t see anything about the beams, but the actual seats, from the color to the size to the tunnel entrances look like they took six sections from US Cellular and airlifted them into Wrigley without any consideration for aesthetics.

  5. I found these. Not sure if it helps.