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moderndallas.net
Special “Eye” to Watch
June Mattingly // contributing art writer

The Art and Architecture of the Cowboys
Stadium Score International Acclaim Part II

In Arlington, more or less halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, on June 6 inimitable Country
and Western star George Strait christened the Cowboys Stadium when he took stage at the
first public event in the home of the Dallas Cowboys, the US’s most-watched NFL team under
Jerry Jones their owner, in his 21st season.

A stadium of the 21st century it was designed as a complete destination environment, much
more than a boldly designed shell. It was designed not only as a showcase for serious
contemporary art but to allow every fan with stunning views of the action whether in
general admission seats or luxury suites. Along with the utilization of awesome cutting-
edge technology, the amazing flexibility of spaces to adapt for gathering and entertaining
purposes and the “sheer wow factors” of the art and architecture continues to attract a
world of events and audiences.

This 3 million square foot engineering marvel, the largest NFL stadium anywhere, designed
by the global architecture firm HKS Sports & Entertainment Group (whose home base is Dallas),
boasts the most spectacular column-free room in the world, stretching a quarter-mile in length.
Why do the Cowboys deserve such a grandiose playing field for their home games? Well, they
have won five Super Bowls, eight NFC crowns, and 21 division titles.

“Architects use varying strategies to make buildings powerful and intriguing – there’s no single
solution. Some large buildings are interesting because their forms are mysteries, complicated
and convoluted and hard to figure out. Cowboys stadium lies at the opposite extreme: a pure,
easily understood geometric form, deriving its power from the coherence of the idea.”
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Designed to be open or closed, depending on weather conditions, the longest single
expansive retractable roof in the world, from directly above, the entire playing field
is visible and the opening itself is visible from an elevation of five miles. Two monumental
arches, the longest single span arches ever built each weighing 3,255 tons spanning
1,225 feet to support the roof structure “imply strength, movement and even grace –
all quintessential qualities in sports. Even the concrete abutments that receive the ends
of the arches have a sculptural presence.” If the ceiling is open, the top 13 feet of the
torch of the Statue of Liberty would just peek outside with plenty of headroom under
the stadium’s 292 foot high ceiling.”

“Can pure structure also be considered art? Of course: the Eiffel Tower, the Golden
Gate Bridge, and now the Cowboys Stadium.”
Arched Truss
Angled toward the stands for optimal viewing and hanging approximately 90 feet above
the field from the roof structure, a giant video screen spans between the 20-yard lines
immersing spectators in video imagery. The two sideline boards measure 72 feet tall by
160 feet wide (17 times the area of a standard US highway billboard, while the two
facing the end zones measure 27 feet tall by 48 feet wide.
The stadium features the largest retractable end zone doors in the world. Each has a
clear opening measuring 120 feet high by 180 feet wide. The five 38-foot panels take
only 18 minutes to open or close. By using clear glass for the door panels, spectators
experience panoramic views from within the seating bowl and when circulating
through the stadium concourses.

“In a remarkable twist on the normal stadium experience, this element of the building
provides those fans in the upper-level seating the same details on the playing field
as those seated below.”
One of the most compelling architectural features of the stadium design is the canted
glass exterior wall. The 86-foot-high glass, curtain-wall surface slopes outwardly at a
14-degree angle to create a luminescent glow, day or night. A fritted glass system
transitions up the elevation to create a dynamic, ever-changing aesthetic depending
on the time of day. At night, a series of internal lights gently wash the glass wall to
create a glow across the façade.

“This is a big, bold building that speaks quietly on the inside. The palette of interior
finishes stays close to neutral tones to provide a respectful backdrop for the art,
but everywhere the interior architecture exudes quality, richness of detail, and
distinctive materials.”
Left: “Fat super star,” 2008-09, brass, color effect filter glass, mirror, halogen light fixture, 39 3/8 x 39 3/8
inches by 39 3/8 inches, Hall of Fame Level, photo courtesy Dallas Cowboys.   Right: Olafur Eliasson
(Danish), “The outside of inside,” 2008, projectors, spotlights, color filter foil, stainless steel and
control unit, dimensions variable, Dallas Museum of Art Collection.
Olaf Eliasson’s “Fat super star,” the second of two of his pieces installed in the Stadium “consists
of six circular components that slowly spin overhead, like an elegant version of an astronomical
model of the solar system…wrapped in brass bands that suggest elliptical orbits, recalls holiday
decorations, religious symbols, children’s toys, and the stars in the sidewalk of Hollywood
Boulevard. It also resembles a giant jewel, with gorgeously cut facets reflecting every color
of the spectrum…Ingeniously crafted from tinted glass, mirrors, brass, and halogen light
fixtures, and it casts kaleidoscopic patterns on the domed ceiling and shines soft beams
of light on visitors, who then become part of the art.”  
Jim Isermann, “Untitled,” 2009, vacuum-formed styrene wall, 40 by 96 feet, Northwest
Ramp Wall, site-specific commission, photos courtesy Dallas Cowboys

Jim Isermann’s “gigantic wall relief was conceived and fabricated with the individual in
mind. Its basic unit is a seven-foot square module. The building block is slightly larger than
an adult, familiar proportions that do not stretch the imagination, overwhelm the senses,
or test the limits of comprehension...This simple gesture creates a complex pattern
(arranging 65 of them turning every other one in the opposite direction) that
transforms a 4,000 square-foot wall into an astonishingly beautiful abstraction that
is a marvel of engineering and a pleasure to behold
Left: Annette Lawrence (Texan), “Free Paper 12 / 05,” 2006-2008, mixed media, overall
30 1/2 x 25 3/4 x 2 inches, Dallas Museum of Art Collection. Right: “Coin Toss,” 2009,
stranded cable, 14 feet diameter by 45 feet (span); located in Main Concourse Club,
Entry E Site-specific commission, photo by Richie Humphreys Dallas Cowboys
Annette Lawrence’s “Coin Toss,” approached through glass doors into a 45 foot entrance,
often the first art experience for a visitor, is the “prelude to the pivotal, anticipatory moments”
pre-game. “This North Texas artist’s hourglass-shaped sculpture comes alive when walks
under it. That is when the gentle curves of its profile shift, causing the open volume it
wraps around to appear to contract and expand. Dazzling reflections dance off its
shiny silver cables. The faster one walks, the faster they spiral through space. This
movement is suggested by the work’s title.”  

Annette is a professor at the UNT in Denton. Born in 1965 she’s had one-person exhibitions
at the Dallas Museum of Art, the African-American Museum in Dallas, and ArtPace in
San Antonio. Group-wise she showed in the 1997 competitive Whitney Biennial. The
Blanton Museum in Austin and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts own her work.

In summary:
“Cowboy stadium began as a dream to change the way fans watch football games
by making every aspect of the experience more thrilling, gracious, and awe-inspiring
than ever before. The Jones Family did not mess with the game itself, what takes place
on the field is still the focus of any given Sunday. The goal was to transform everything
around it, creating a streamlined structure that has become an instant
architectural landmark”

Note: All quotes are courtesy of the Cowboys Stadium Press Packet. Thank you to
Brett Daniels and to all of his helpful staff in providing these articles.