Interiors Awards 2015: Sports

Photography by Jeremy Bittermann and Eckert & Eckert

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University of Oregon Hatfield-Dowlin Complex
Designers: ZGF Architects and Firm 151
Client: University of Oregon
Location: Eugene, Oregon

“Putting athletes first, and avoiding the expected visual and thematic clichés, this is a three-dimensional expression of this institution’s commitment to creating a total user experience for the student-athlete. It’s reinforcing the legacy of the sport while being futuristic.” -Jury

Before designing the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex—a new operations center, training facility, and locker room suite for the football team of the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon—designers from ZGF Architects in Portland, Oregon, traveled with coaches and athletic department representatives to some of the nation’s top college facilities. Their takeaway was that while many top teams had massive weight rooms or trophy cases, these interiors lacked a sense of place or well-designed amenities. 

Knowing that excellent facilities will lure top recruits to its football team, the university sought to enhance its program through well-designed amenities. And understanding that Oregon’s football program is fortunate to benefit like no other team from a single benefactor—Nike co-founder Phil Knight—ZGF and Portland-based interior designer Firm 151 sought to embody Oregon’s embrace of innovation and modernity. “In our visioning session with the players, they talked about Oregon football as high tech and state of the art,” ZGF Design Partner Eugene Sandoval says. “They referred to speed and this sort of stealth aspect.” 

The 145,000-square-foot Hatfield-Dowlin Complex comprises two rectangular forms—what the designers dubbed a “teaching box” and an “office bar”—stacked perpendicularly with an upper wing cantilevered some 40 feet over the ground. Sandoval likens the building’s darkly shaded triple-pane glass facade—which complements the granite and metal exterior, provides glare protection, and saves energy—to a ninja’s suit of armor. But the building also serves as a unifying element for the Autzen Stadium complex and acts as a new front door. Visitors enter along a pathway defined by metal walls etched with past players’ names. 

Inside, the complex is “all about accommodation, for players, coaches, staff, and the fans,” says Randy Stegmeier, principal and owner of Firm 151, “and it’s about authenticity.” In program, the complex includes locker rooms, a weight room, treatment pools, indoor sprint track, a players’ lounge, a full-service dining facility, meeting rooms, team video theaters, strategy rooms, as well as a large conference suite. Additional amenities include a recruiting center to host prospective student-athletes, dedicated areas for professional scouts, a media interview room, and an advanced video editing center.

Materials were selected for their warmth and tactile feel. Coaches’ offices and adjacent living room–like areas for entertaining recruits and their families, as well as a nearby theater, feature walnut flooring and custom furniture. Sofas are sheathed in leather similar to that on a football. Numerous interior walls in the coaching area are clad in writable magnetic glass, allowing a surface for impromptu strategy discussions. Locker rooms and position study rooms are clad in Portuguese slate and sleek reflective glass surfaces, “to reinforce the focused nature of the work within the facility and to reinforce connectivity with sweeping views,” Stegmeier explains.

The interiors also incorporate graphics, video, and original artwork. Each player’s locker, for example, features his own likeness suited up for battle. A dining room for 200 is outfitted with neon lights. A mobile that features a group of sculpted shiny metal ducks in flight, each representing a graduated NFL player, is located in a common area on the second floor near the coaches’ offices and player-families’ lounge. In the lobby, a graphic wall of 64 television screens offers montages of photos, action clips, and Oregon motivational films with a 3-D surround-sound system. Adjacent to the lobby, the “ring room” is a small, darkened space that showcases spot-lit rings from victorious bowl games.

Like the team itself, which rose from mediocrity to a championship level, the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex is about more than flash. “I’ve given hundreds of tours, and the thing that people are amazed by is the functionality of the building,” says Craig Pintens, senior associate athletic director at the university. “I think it has a reputation for opulence, and that’s evident as you walk through it. But the thought process that went through the design of the building is beyond the amazement people have in the finishes.”