In an architecturally diverse setting like Mexico City, where buildings spanning a vast range of eras and styles rub shoulders with one another, establishing a new landmark that holds its own isn’t easy. But architect Francisco Gonzalez Pulido has done just that with Alfredo Harp Helú Stadium, the new home of the Diablos Rojos del México, the nearly 80-year-old local Triple-A Minor Mexican League baseball team. Located in Magdalena Mixhuca Sports City, originally developed to host the 1962 Mexican Grand Prix and the 1968 Summer Olympics, the stadium features a massive trident-shaped cantilevered roof and a carefully orchestrated lighting plan.
In a direct allusion to the team’s name, Mexican-born, Chicago-based Gonzalez Pulido (along with local architect Alonso de Garay of Taller ADG) designed the unique structure in the shape of a devil’s pitchfork, creating a standout addition to the cityscape when seen from above – the complex is visible from passenger planes landing at Benito Juárez International Airport – and one that really comes alive during night games, thanks to thousands of lighting fixtures. “The effect,” says Gonzalez Pulido, “is like a huge urban lantern.” That ambient impression is strengthened by the material the architect chose to construct the canopy: reams of a PTFE textile that isn’t just durable and UV-resistant, but diffuses light with a “homogeneous perceptual intensity throughout.”
To achieve that uniformity, Gonzalez Pulido worked closely with lighting experts from Germany’s L-Plan Lighting Design from the conceptual stage to the final result. Having collaborated previously on projects in China and Europe, both architect and lighting team shared a design language that emphasizes the importance of illumination in public spaces. “We knew Francisco’s expectations with regards to quality, finishes and materials,” says L-Plan principal Michael Rohde. For the stadium, they calculated a hierarchal lighting scheme that combined diffused and direct components using Autodesk 3ds Max, an animation program. “The idea of a lighting hierarchy comes directly from nature,” says Rohde. “We wanted people to feel like they were walking through a forest, with no harsh glare.” To that end, the canopy’s steel skeleton is sandwiched between a fibreglass-treated top layer and a soon-to-be-installed mesh undersheet, both of which soften the illumination (the 2019 baseball season started before the project was complete, so installation of the undersheet was put on hold until the end of this past summer).
It was important to the owner that the stadium serve as a community activator as much as a sports arena, so attention was also paid to open-air gathering spots. Greeting visitors are six three-storey “pyramids” that house retail, offices and concession stands and form a public plaza around the stadium (below). These structures – which are clad in slats made from a concrete and volcanic rock composite that gives them a unique, almost black tone – are backlit to glow in a manner similar to the canopy and to provide transparency. “When you visit at night, it feels a bit like a temple,” says Gonzalez Pulido.
Whether experienced at ground level or from above, Mexico City’s new baseball stadium shines brightly on the local scene.