fD Interview

dan meis, dan meis staples center
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fD Interview: Dan Meis, Stadium Architect

January 02, 2009
by Isabel Cowles
FindingDulcinea talks with Dan Meis, the stadium architect who designed the Staples Center, Safeco Field and Miller Park.

Dan Meis grew up in a small town in Colorado. He became interested in architecture as a young boy and has gone on to create some of today’s most popular sports arenas in major cities across the world. Meis draws his inspiration from unusual sources, including sports cars and robots. As fascinated as he is by technology, however, Meis thinks going green is the next step in stadium building.

fD: How did you first develop an interest in architecture?
DM: As a boy, my parents owned a small restaurant. When the town decided to build a new high school, it displayed the architectural model at my parents’ restaurant because it was the place everybody visited. I would go look at the model after school, lift off the roof and try to imagine what it would be like as a building. I was hooked.

fD: From where do you draw your inspiration?

DM: Lots of places! Cool cities like Tokyo, Seoul and Paris; vintage toys like robots or rockets—things that are kind of retro and future at the same time. I also love industrial and car design like Ferrari and Porsche.
fD: What are the most challenging elements of designing a stadium?

DM: The scale is massive, so every decision means millions of dollars. Picking the wrong railing can add many millions to the budget. It is also difficult to pack in everything necessary to generate the revenue needed while preserving an intimate feeling.

fD: Were you intimidated when you designed your first stadium?

DM: Only insofar as I didn’t understand how big it was. I remember the engineer asking me what shape I wanted the beams of the roof to be, and I tried to show him with my hands. I didn’t realize that they would be about 15 feet deep in reality.

fD: What are the most rewarding aspects of working on and completing a project?
DM: Seeing that crowd on opening day and seeing the wonder in kids’ eyes.
fD: What are some of your favorite design elements in your own home?

DM: An all-glass wall that looks out on the woods in a Palisades ravine.

fD: How do you think the Internet has influenced architecture?

DM: It’s had a huge impact. I use it constantly for research. Google Earth makes any site instantly accessible. I travel with an iPhone, BlackBerry, scanner and mini-printer. With the Internet, I have a truly mobile office that can instantly access any reference in the world.

fD: What do you think might be the next architectural craze?

DM: Becoming truly green is a moral imperative. We have only scratched the surface. Everyone worries about cars, but buildings contribute so much more to the carbon footprint. We need a Manhattan Project or Apollo Project approach to sustainable architecture. Unfortunately, most of the attention is on burgeoning economies in Asia and the Middle East where fantasy worlds are still being built. It is exciting, but not driven by normal economics and not necessarily helping the planet.

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