By Jim McCarthy Apr 10, 2012 0 comments

The Future May Finally Be Arriving

This morning, the Miami Marlins manager, Ozzie Guillen, is being roasted on an open fire for his comments about Fidel Castro, so all the Marlins-related news today is about that.

I’d like to draw your attention to something else, though: the opening of Marlins Park, the new home for the team.  There are a couple things worth pointing out about the place.  As USAToday’s Mike Dodd points out, this could be the last major league stadium built for a good little while, perhaps 10 years, so it and it alone will represent this decade in the future when people look back at the design of baseball parks in our time.

The second, and to my way of thinking far more interesting, thing  is that this is the first park built in the last two decades that wasn’t all about nostalgia.  Back in 1992, the Orioles launched Camden Yards, designed to call upon 100 years of baseball heritage and tap into the idea that the steel and glass design aesthetic of the 70s and 80s had given way to more traditional materials, but done far better.  Here’s the facade of Oriole Park at Camden Yards to give you an idea.   It’s both comforting and also stylish.  It’s hard to object to, and it conveys both a prosperous present day and a rich heritage.

It was so great, in fact, that to a very significant degree, the 20 or so major league parks that have been built since then take a lot of their cues from Camden Yards.  The Orioles even call it “the ballpark that changed baseball forever.”

That’s a big claim, but not entirely ridiculous.  Baseball found a new gear, a new way of talking to people, and continued to be relevant as the century turned and a new generation appeared.  Without better ballparks with something meaningful to add to the civic conversation, this might not have been possible.

Marlins Park, though, has added something different to the conversation.  It’s not traditional.  It’s not nostalgic.  It’s ultramodern.  The facade doesn’t so much comfort as it does challenge.  Baseball purists, who quietly long for the pastoral 19th century origins of baseball, might hate this.  There are two aquariums behind home plate.  This crazy thing happens when a Marlin hits a home run.

As Mike Dodd says, “it screams Miami.”

And, to me, more importantly, it screams of the present day.  It expresses something current in the architecture and therefore in the entertainment it’s designed to hold that’s not just a callback to a different time or a grand expression of the Baby Boomer aesthetic.

In fact, it’s akin to something, just like I was saying the other day about contemporary music, that is long overdue.  We’ve finally moved on to ‘the next thing.’  Disney Hall, the Cosmopolitan or the Wynn in Las Vegas are like Marlins Park expressions of something new and of its time, rather than being derivative or paying homage to some past glory.  This is healthy.  This is what should happen.  The endless recycle cycle of cultural tropes and pre-existing intellectual property of the last 25 years mercifully feels like perhaps it’s winding down.

And not a year too soon.

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