contact us
from our archive
Projects   Building Types Study - Museums
Off the Record: Recent Blog Posts
The blog written by the staff of Architectural Record
View all blog posts >>
Recently Posted Reader Photos

View all photo galleries >>
Reader Commented / Recommended
Most Commented Most Recommended
Rankings reflect comments made in the past 14 days
Rankings reflect votes made in the past 14 days

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
Springfield, Mass.
Gwathmey Siegel Associates Architects LLC

Gwathmey siegel Associates Architects used Strong, yet simple forms to symbolize the action-packed energy of the game

By Charles Linn, FAIA

© Scott Francis

For more photos click on 'photos & drawings' above.

To see the people and products behind this project click on 'people & products.'

For its design for the new home of the Basketball Hall of Fame, dedicated to the game’s inventor, James Naismith, Gwathmey Siegel Associates relied on forms that anyone who has ever watched the game can understand: a hemisphere and, nearby, a spire surmounted by a great illuminated basketball. A wink and a nod to the famed Trylon and Perisphere of the 1939 World’s Fair? Not at all, says Robert Siegel, FAIA, but very much in keeping with the firm’s tradition of using straightforward geometry.

The Basketball Hall of Fame’s public-private client structure is complex. Representatives of the City of Springfield and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts intended for the building to be a catalyst for urban revitalization and riverfront development. After investing more than $80 million in the project, these agencies wanted to ensure that the museum would become a destination for large numbers of tourists, attract important retailers to the large areas dedicated to stores, and generate profits enough to pay off bonds issued to cover construction costs.

The hall’s board of trustees comprised athletes; sports broadcasters; and representatives from professional, collegiate, and amateur basketball organizations. They would all be involved in the museum’s campaign for private donations and tapped as sources for the ongoing supply of new exhibition materials needed to keep people coming back. These sponsors were concerned about how the story of the game would be told and how its players would be represented. All of the groups understood that the facility needed to have a recognizable image that would appeal to people who might need to be convinced that a "museum" can be an entertaining place to visit.

The building’s forms are almost self-explanatory. The hemisphere-shaped dome houses exhibits and a full-size basketball court. It is constructed of rolled steel sections and covered by ceramic-based composite panels that have a semispecular finish. The building’s retail spaces, main corridor, ticketing booth, and large screening room are covered by a gently curved roof, characterized by Siegel as a "swoop." He notes, "We looked for forms that would be readily appreciated by all ages. The clients wanted it to appeal to everyone, not just people who were educated in architecture. The building had to be able to stand up as a brand, so whether it was being seen at high speed from Amtrak or Interstate 91 [which run next to the site], or on television screens across the planet, it would be instantly recognizable."

A major design decision made by the architects and Scenic Technology, the exhibit designers, in collaboration with the museum staff, was to lead museumgoers through the hall sequentially, from the top of the building down. Visitors to the hall are whisked by elevator to the building’s third level, the "Honors Ring," where interactive displays teach them about Hall of Fame members. At the second level, exhibits tell the story of basketball. When visitors arrive at the ground floor "Center Court," they can take a few shots at the baskets.

Formal name of Project:
Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

Springfield, Mass.

Gross square footage:
280,000 sq ft

Total construction cost:
$35.5 million - building; $11.5 million - exhibits

(Public)City of Springfield, Massachusetts
(Private) Springfield Riverfront Development Corporation (SRDC)

Project Managers:
City Project Manager:
Bovis Lend Lease, Boston, MA

SRDC Project Manager:
O’Connell Development Group, Holyoke, MA

Gwathmey Siegel Associates Architects llc
475 Tenth Avenue
New York, NY 10018
Tel: 212-947-1240
Fax: 212-244-2816


Special Subscription Offer: Get Architectural Record Digital Free!
© 2008 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
All Rights Reserved