Dan Meis, recently appointed global director of sport at Woods Bagot, will expand the Los Angeles-based Woods Bagot team to include design and technical experts in New York, London and Sydney.
Meis is also leading conceptual design efforts for a new stadium for soccer club AS Roma in Rome, Italy, and Sports City Stadium in Doha, Qatar, for the 2022 FIFA World Cup (in association with Aedas).
Architecture and Design spoke to him about where he plans to lead the sports design team at the firm, why sporting design needs a shake-up and what it means to be the designer of a building labelled the 'greatest arena ever built'.
Which direction would you like to see the sports team head in in the next two years?
I am most excited by the opportunity to bring to the market a globally based practice that is focused on innovation and research in the evolution of sports and entertainment buildings. Sports design has long been a very narrowly held market by a relatively small handful of firms based in the US. Being able to combine our existing Venice beach design culture with the resources and reach of a global firm like Woods Bagot allows me to bring a very unique practice to the market.
What type of technical experts will you be looking for in Sydney?
Coincidentally, Australia is probably the second most prolific generator of sports design practices. Likely a combination of a passionate sports culture and the legacy of the 2000 Olympic games, there are a number of talented architects in Sydney with sports experience. I have also noticed a shared philosophy about design and architecture between Venice and Sydney, so I suspect we will be working very closely with our colleagues there to build this practice.
What do you think of sports design these days? Is it dynamic or in need of a shake-up?
It is definitely in need of a shake-up. There are very few cities, or even countries, that can afford to create iconic symbols like the Beijing Bird's Nest that struggle to find a useful life post event. The future is in far more flexible and sustainable design, such as buildings that can scale up or down and transform to numerous events. There are a number of developing technologies to enhance the spectator event. The trick is to be flexible enough as an 'expert' to recognise when to try something new.
What has been your favourite project to work on?
My favorite project is usually the next one! We are always looking to do something better than we have before. Staples Center will always be a favorite as it is in my home city and home to so many memorable events. Currently the Sports City design for Qatar 2022 is a favorite, given the possibility of building the most technologically sophisticated and flexible venue ever.
Sports City design courtesy Woods Bagot
You have designed a number of different sports projects around the world. Which country do you think is a leader in sports design and why?
One would have to say the US simply because of the importance of the professional leagues in this country. The buildings in the US are most often the model for fan experience, revenue generation, flexibility, safety, etc. The Olympic Games and the World Cup, however, has grown increasingly important in the architectural innovations in stadia.
Your Los Angeles’ Staples Center has been heralded as the ‘greatest arena ever built’. Does praise like that put you under pressure to produce an even greater building the next time?
It doesn't put pressure on me because every project has its own unique challenges. There are a number of things I would do differently if I was designing Staples today. The pressure for me is to create a true piece of architecture that will stand the test of time in the way the Roman Coliseum has!
What has been your greatest achievement so far – professionally or other?
Again, I hope my greatest achievement is yet to come. My success has been in elevating the dialogue about a building type like sports (which traditionally had been seen primarily as an engineering exercise) to be seen as important buildings architecturally, contributing to their surroundings as true civic buildings and creating a reason for people to feel passionate about them and their design.