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A Viking Ship in Minneapolis? No, It's Just the U.S. Bank Stadium

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The new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis has been compared to a lot of things, and considering the city's Nordic heritage—their football team is called the Vikings—you'd be forgiven for getting excited over its supposed resemblance to a boat, with its "bow" facing downtown. After all, what better source of intimidation (not to mention branding exercise) is there than surrounding your home turf with a warship ? Not to get your hopes up, but that's not what the architects from HKS, the Dallas-based firm that designed the $1.076 billion multi-use stadium, were going for. But with a signature steep, angular roof and numerous technical innovations, the venue is made to bring a new level of sustainability and site-specific design to the NFL when it opens next August for the 2016 season. And unlike many of its peers, it'll bring the outdoors inside without the use of a retractable roof, which HKS talked the client out of in favor of a huge, translucent ceiling.

"It has a huge sustainability story," says Bryan Trubey, Principal and Director of Sports & Entertainment at HKS. "The roof is asymmetrical, with a single beam and super truss that isn't located in the center, but pushed to the north side of the roof. The steep pitched roof allows the snow to slip off the building, and provides maximum sun exposure to the southern two-thirds of the roof. It feels like daylight underneath."

The unique design was part of a calculus to make a stadium located in a relatively frigid climate get the most out of limited sunlight and warm weather. Maximizing usage—whether it's concerts, conventions, or baseball games—is a key aspect of what HKS calls "authentic sustainability," which goes beyond the LEED rating the firm is aiming for, according to architect Kevin Taylor, a senior vice president managing the project. As opposed to a standard retractable roof, the use of which would be limited by climate and wind, this new roof will be made from EFTE, an incredibly insulating, glass-like plastic which allows sunlight to heat the interior and warm air to mass in the unusually high roof, cutting energy costs (the amount of money saved from not having to turn on the energy-efficient LED overhead lights during days games will also be substantial).

In addition, a series of massive, swinging doors being assembled on site, the largest of which is 95 feet tall and 50 feet wide and weighs more than 57,000 pounds, will pivot open towards downtown Minneapolis, letting in the cool breeze. When completed, they'll be the world's largest pivoting doors, creating a visual draw for dans. It offers a different way of moderating the temperature inside. Along with special luxury suites on ground level that open up to patios covered in the same turf that on the playing field, it one of many features hoping to provide a different game-day experience.

Unlike Minneapolis's previous stadium, the Metrodome, which was an air-supported structure, U.S. Bank Stadium will have a solid roof, steep enough for winter snow to slide off. (Taylor compared the Metrodome, which famously burst holes in its roof, to "putting air in a beach ball"). It'll soon get a chance to show how resilient it is to a Minnesota winter. The stadium, which is employing 1,400 workers a day on site during peak construction periods, is still on track for next season, with crews are currently erecting one million dollars worth of material daily.

So what is the stadium actually shaped like? HKS, which specializes in stadiums and civic buildings, and recently designed pro football stadiums for Indianapolis (Lucas Oil Stadium) and Dallas (AT&T Stadium), does its homework when designing a structure that fits in with its surroundings. They have an anthropologist on staff to help research the local culture, and the resulting jagged edges of the building are supposed to reflect modern Minneapolis architecture, like Jean Nouvel's Guthrie Theatre. The design teams hopes it's a very massive, and very site-specific addition to the city skyline.

"We like it when people refer to the building looking like any number of different things—ice shard, a rock formation in the Mississippi, and yes a Viking ship," says Taylor, also noting that the real design was based off this steep roofs of structures from Northern Europe, a nod to the area's Scandinavian heritage. "If you're able to do those things in a way that's abstract, not literal, the way that people look at it skews positive. We thought people would feel an attachment and just feel right."

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