If You Build It

Paul Goldberger considers the parallels between the design of baseball stadiums and trends in American urbanism.

Martin C. Pedersen: Let’s start with two questions: Why does a Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic write a book about baseball stadiums? And for those not interested in baseball, why do ballparks matter?

Paul Goldberger: We could talk for half an hour on the second question. But I’ve always found there’s something magical about a baseball park, about the way it’s both city and country woven together in the most miraculous way. I remember as a kid, the first time I went to Yankee Stadium, being blown away by the most beautiful lawn I’d ever seen in my life, and I grew up in the suburbs, where there were lots of lawns. But I’d never seen one like this, and it was right in the middle of the Bronx. That juxtaposition was powerful for me.

In 2009, when I was at the New Yorker, David Remnick asked me to write about Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, both of which opened that year. As I researched the piece, I realized how the history of baseball parks is also the history of American cities. It’s a mirror to how we’ve viewed our cities and what we think about them. Baseball parks are a significant part of the public realm; they’re a public experience, in an age when so much is pushed toward private and virtual experience.

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