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7 cool design facts to know about DC United’s Audi Field

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These architectural features make you feel like you’re right on the pitch

Photos: D.C. United

D.C. United fans are settling into a shiny new $400 million stadium in Buzzard Point that’s destined to be a landmark along the riverfront. Populous designer Todd Spangler walked Curbed DC through Audi Field and explained how the Populous-led design team made this 20,000 seat-stadium feel like every seat is right near the pitch.

There were many constraints with this site: “We really jammed a lot into a pretty small site footprint,” Spangler says. Not only is the stadium’s site small, designers also had to avoid existing high-voltage power lines running the length of the east stands. The stadium spans an easement and avoids those Pepco lines completely.

This is one of the few stadiums where you can see the pitch from outside: A lot of stadiums are completely closed in, and the field is often either above or below grade. But that’s not the case at Audi Field, where you can peer into the entrance and see the players in action. The city challenged the design team to create a connection between the stadium and the community.

The walk up to the nosebleed seats is steep: To get fans as close to the pitch as possible in this small site, Populous maxed out the seating bowl in terms of steepness: the stadium has one of the steepest seating rakes in MLS at more than 33 degrees. “They’re going to have a trek to get up there,” Spangler says. But the good thing about soccer is that most people aren’t milling about as much as at other sporting events, he says, because the timing of the matches are so predictable. “It’s constant action. People really do stay in their seats,” he says.

There’s a unique player tunnel experience at Audi Field: DC United players will enter the field under the scoreboard, coming up from the locker rooms which are below grade. That’s unusual for soccer stadiums, and could lead to some dramatic entrances.

Don’t miss the “Circulation Tower:” Featuring hexagon-shaped soccer ball panel-inspired lights, this soaring staircase offers views of the pitch, the Capitol building, and the river. “It was really about making a statement,” Spangler says.

Green features: The designers were going for LEED Gold with Audi Field, and in addition to its waterless urinals, a green roof that’s in the works, and a LED-powered pre-game light show, there are plenty of green design elements you can’t see. The building’s skin is energy-efficient, solar panels will be in the works, and when it rains, water will drain under the field into storage where it will be slowly released so it doesn’t go into the Anacostia.

Grab a Heineken for one of the best views: Even if your seats are way up in the stands, the Heineken Rooftop bar includes seats that are basically overlooking the fields and drinkers can post up there. That’s probably a competitive bar stool to snag though.

The design team for Audi Field includes architect Populous; associate architect Marshall Moya Design; design-builder Turner Construction; structural engineer A+F Engineers; mechanical and electrical engineers ME Engineers; plumbing and fire protection engineers Howe Engineers; civil engineer WSP; and landscape architecture Populous.