Honoring the Legacy of Ben Barnert

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Just 18 months ago, the country lost one of the world’s foremost sports architects, and Populous lost a leader and a friend. Ben Barnert, employee number 8, passed away in the summer of 2013 after a courageous battle with brain cancer. Those of us who were fortunate enough to work with Ben knew he was a practical jokester, a talented architect and a respected businessman. He embodied the spirit of Populous – driven by a belief in working hard and enjoying what you do. His spirit is alive in the millions of fans who take joy in the buildings he helped create – iconic places like Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium, Heinz Field, PETCO Park, Sprint Center and Citi Field.

To honor Ben’s legacy, Populous created the Inaugural Ben B. Barnert Award for Project of the Year. Once a year, the firm will honor a Populous project completed that year that truly embodies the spirit of all that Ben stood for – hard work, humor, character, compassion, relationships and excellence. Ben didn’t just leave us with great architecture in cities across the US; he left us with inspiration that carries the firm into the future.

11 total projects were entered into the running and the board of directors was thrilled with how each and every project seemed to capture Ben’s spirit. It was clear that the project teams worked hard together with both humor and humility to design buildings equal to more than the sum of its parts, and destinations that make the entire firm proud. We saw the spirit of Ben in projects in places like El Paso, Texas; Storrs, Connecticut; Denver, Colorado and Buffalo, New York. We saw his humor in the project team’s submissions – in the camaraderie they built and the relationships they formed and the way they presented their work.

In the end, one project stood out. We’re pleased to announce that McLane Stadium, Baylor University’s new on-campus football stadium, has won the Ben B. Barnert Project of the Year Award in 2014. The project team was diverse, passionate, creative and fun. They were nimble and down to earth; smart and accessible.  They genuinely bonded with our client and with one another. They helped envision a building that would be far more than a football stadium to campus and to the city – and together, were tireless in carrying out this vision. And the project itself was a picture of excellence – it has been called “One of the most innovative venues in the nation” (ESPN) and “the most beautiful setting in the sport.” (Sports on Earth) As the stadium rose from the Brazos, it seemed that the team did as well. Coach Art Briles explained “It’s like I told the players. I dreamed too small when I dreamed about a stadium. The people involved certainly had bigger, better, wiser, more glorious dreams, because there is not another place like it. It’s the best stadium in the United States of America.”

We hope that in projects like McLane Stadium, Ben’s spirit continues to shine. As a firm, we’re proud to look to projects like these as exemplary models for who we are, how we work and what we aspire to create in communities across the world.

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