Ice Cool: U.S. Bank Stadium Wayfinding

In September, we featured Infinite Scale’s brand integration at U.S. Bank Stadium. In this companion piece, we examine the stadium’s wayfinding by Selbert Perkins Design.

The Selbert Perkins Designteam had collaborated with HKS architects before on Dallas' AT&T Stadium, but this project was decidedly different. They found a very cool solution to a monumental design challenge in Minnesota.

 

Glacial Inspiration

The architectural vision for U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings, in Minneapolis was dual purpose: to embody both a Nordic aesthetic and a practical response to the local weather patterns. The resulting stadium is a giant glacier rising from the Twin Cities, with its intersecting planes and high-peaked asymmetrical roof. The roof creates an instantly recognizable shape while serving the essential purpose of repelling heavy snow accumulation (particularly important given the 2010 Metrodome roof collapse at the Vikings' previous home).

HKS wanted the clean Nordic look and feel to extend throughout the building, from the architecture to the lighting to the wayfinding and everything in between. The interior space is reminiscent of glacier-carved canyons—creating sweeping stark open views—that HKS did not want obstructed by overhead signage, unlike the traditional approach used in the AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

With that key prescription, the Selbert Perkins Design team set about planning the most compelling integrations using columns, walls and the architectural façade. A system needed to be developed to ensure consistent clear wayfinding information throughout the concourse, a challenge due to the size of the project, the level of integration into the architecture and the complex circulation posed by the design of the space.

 

A Complex Understanding

The SPD team began the analysis phase, working closely with Vikings staff and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Association. The MSFA organizes the use of the stadium to host events beyond NFL games, including soccer, baseball and concerts. That meant, in addition to understanding the goals of two clients, the design team had to understand the many different types of audiences. As John Lutz, Partner at SPD says, “From the NFL season ticket holder to the guy who’s going to see Weezer... it’s his first time here.”

Within the football audience alone there are many groups, from the general admission audience to owners of suites or club-level tickets, and there are different entrances for each. So the wayfinding communication needed to be tailored to the paths of travel leading to these different areas, while simultaneously ensuring all audiences could find their way to seats and services from any entrance they enter.

Further complicating the process, the routes to reach some sections of seating are circuitous. The SPD team worked closely with HKS to understand the patterns of circulation, paths of travel and where they intersect. These routes presented a wayfinding challenge. “In some cases finding a seat wasn’t as simple as walking in and taking an escalator. It was more like: pivot around, go down some stairs, then take an escalator up,” says Lutz.

 

Formation

With the goal of easing visitor orientation, the SPD team split the entire stadium into North and South sections, assigning them the Vikings team colors of gold and purple. The presence of this color feature on tickets immediately orients visitors coming through the immense pivoting doors their half of the building. The SPD team was also involved early in the seating strategy, providing several options on how the seats could be organized and numbered. After the final scheme was vetted, they moved forward with the wayfinding design.

The architectural inspiration informed the visual language of the wayfinding. Shapes directly reference ice formations: glaciers, icebergs and crystalline faceted shapes. The color scheme tied into the architectural palette, with the Viking’s gold and purple as helpful guiding accents.

The team did extensive research on ancient Nordic hieroglyphics, which served as a launching point for the system of icons designed to designate amenities such as the men’s and women’s restrooms. The team carefully chose a typeface for its angular properties in keeping with the icy concept.

This visual language carries through the family of sign types and expressions, from the more realistic three-dimensional expression of ice to two-dimensional signs that wrap and fold over corners. However, the unique faceted shapes of the signage posed a significant challenge for the fabrication team to produce from aluminum within budget. To reduce costs while preserving the intent, they created some of the interior signage with MDF.

The dimensional monument signs positioned around the exterior are appropriately constructed with angular planes of aluminum. These planes are cleverly used to display differing content from maps and wayfinding to sponsorship information.

 

Crystallization

With a dual-client scenario, and working closely with the architect, reaching consensus wasn’t always quick, but the process regarding sign type documentation was. Because all of the signage was required to be integrated into the architecture, the team needed to confirm they did not place signs in locations where security cameras, televisions and other features were going.

With a project this large and in need of so much coordination, HKS required that SPD utilize Autodesk’s Revit. It was a first for the team at the time the project commenced and has since changed the way they do business—for the better. “Before Revit was around, there were a lot of surprises out in the field,” says Lutz.

The project spanned close to four years, from the end of 2012 to June of 2016. The design process spanned about a year, and by the end of 2014, fabricator Serigraphics Sign Systems came on board. Shop drawings, mock-ups and fabrication took almost two years.

The overall result was well received, beautiful, true to the intent and—best of all—functional. Says Lutz, “The system is working really well for the various events happening in the stadium. It will host the Super Bowl in 2018 and we’re crossing our fingers that the Vikings will make the playoffs this year. If you’re not getting any complaints on people getting lost at these huge events, that’s a good thing!”

Cool. Very cool. 

 

Project Name: U.S. Bank Stadium

Client: Minnesota Vikings

Location: Minneapolis

Open Date: Fall 2016

Project Area: 1,750,000 sq. ft. (70,000 seats)

Stadium Budget: $1.1 billion

Architect: HKS Dallas

Wayfinding: Selbert Perkins Design

Design Team: John Lutz (partner); Chris Wong (principal); Kyle Skunta, Jaime Goldsborough, Eric Galenao, Danyelle Sage (designers)

Fabricators: Serigraphics Sign Systems

Photos by: Peter McCullough Photo

 

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