Just because the architects and designers of the new Kings arena in Sacramento compare their creation to the grandeur of Yosemite’s Half Dome and the riparian greenery of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, don’t feel you need to genuflect. That’s for public relations folks and the enthusiastic local press. Just look at what stands before you and trust your own judgment.
If you gaze upon the Golden 1 Center downtown and see a crushed, discarded beer can, as local architect Steven Johnson described the drawings in 2014, think of all the money that went into creating that special effect.
Perhaps you might see a resemblance to a Jiffy Pop popcorn aluminum foil pan or an alien spacecraft, as Bee cartoonist Jack Ohman did. Don’t worry about it, for as the Pulitzer-Prize-winning artist said, the imaginative design works with Jeff Koons’ colorful $8 million accent piece.
The building’s lead architect, Rob Rothblatt, sees touches of Half Dome in his creation as well as the sunny climate of Northern California. He notes, perhaps with pride, that his design group did not borrow from existing architecture in Sacramento. Whether that is a plus or a minus was debated two years ago when the arena plans were released.
Bob Chase, former chairman of the city’s Design Review Commission, contended the design was a good idea. “It doesn’t look like anything else,” he told the Bee. “Not that we are sure what Sacramento regional architecture is.”
Local architect Johnson argued that the design team chose an “overly alien” look. “Sacramento does have wonderful architecture. It seems they tried too hard to create something brand-spanking new without taking a good look (at buildings) around them.”
This mix-and-match approach is reminiscent of the look the Crocker Art Museum adopted with its 125,000-square-foot addition in 2010. The original museum evolved from the Victorian Italianate mansion of Edwin Crocker; the addition was a white modernistic creation. Except for being close to the same height, the two buildings make an odd couple.
I walked around the new arena yesterday and found the exterior design neither uplifting nor offensive. The clean lines, modest height and futuristic industrial look suggest a creation trying to call attention to itself. In that sense, it succeeds more appealingly than its neighbor, the 28-story, black-glass Renaissance Tower. That hulking, menacing presence, built in 1989, was quickly dubbed the “Darth Vader” building.
The city of Sacramento lacks an integrated architectural style. Beauty is where you find it. Personally, I find the Westamerica Bank and Bank of the West buildings, both on Capitol Avenue downtown, uplifting to my spirit, along with the green-glass CalSTRS building along the West Sacramento waterfront.
The state Capitol, once the city’s architectural focal point, is in a class by itself. The $68 million restoration completed in 1981 returned the Capitol to its original grandeur and, in the view of some observers, made it much too classy for its occupants.
The same might be said of the downtown arena and the basketball team that will play there this season.