Growing up in England, sports and design were Jonathan Emmett’s two passions, but he never imagined he’d become the designer of the first ever soccer stadium in the United States (Columbus Crew, circa 1999). An LA resident for nearly a quarter century, Emmett talked with CSQ about his role in the Banc of California (home to the Los Angeles Football Club, also known as LAFC) Stadium project currently underway in Exposition Park.
Describe your background and your path to sports architecture.
Jonathan Emmett I was a small child when I decided I wanted to be an architect. It was my dream. My father was a quantity surveyor in Yorkshire, England so I grew up on building sites. My other passion is sports, and while in high school, my father was involved in the renovation of our local football stadium. Through my father’s relationships, I interned at a Kansas City design firm commissioned to work on a project in England. As crazy as it sounds, I wound up in Missouri working on a project in England! During the course of these experiences, I found my calling – sports architecture.
What is your overall role in the LAFC project?
JE I am a design principal at Gensler, overseeing all design work within the sports practice. Specifically, that entails identifying the LAFC vision, scope, and aspirations of the project, then leading our design talent to deliver on that vision.
What aspects of the stadium are most exciting to you?
JE It’s an LA hometown project which, to me, is rare in the global field of sports architecture! Plus, soccer is a great passion of mine. I grew up watching and playing soccer my whole life in England; I find it very exciting to be involved with a new team that is creating their own identity while we – at the same time – are building a world-class soccer stadium. Supporting the club season after season will certainly be a source of great pride and excitement for me.
What should soon-to-be LAFC fans be most excited about?
JE The owners have done a phenomenal job of reaching out to the community and engaging people who are supporters of the club. They want to create an incredible, intense, and intimate game day atmosphere with the goal of getting fans as close to the action as possible. The stadium bowl seats 22,000 people and, at 34°, is the steepest in Major League Soccer. The seating design puts the closest fan to the field only 12 feet away from the touchline, and the roof canopy over the seating bowl intensifies the atmosphere and keeps the sound in. The diversity of experiences – hospitality spaces, seating, and amenities – will excite fans and Angelenos who have become far more discerning in how they spend their time and money. Little things – like Metro access, electric car accommodations, access to Downtown Los Angeles and the Figueroa Street expansion bike path – all come together to support the vision of access to the stadium for the entire region.