In a video that shows the Oregon Ducks football team being introduced this past summer to their new Football Performance Center at the University of Oregon, player after player has the same gobsmacked look on his face. One says, “Are you kidding me, bro? Legit.” Their delight in the building, by ZGF Architects with interior architect Firm 151 and landscape architect PLACE studio, continues: “Unreal. This place is crazy. I can't even . . . There are no words.” “Unbelievable.” “Unimaginable.”

The Ducks are not only reacting to the architecture—stacked and staggered boxes clad in fritted glass, steel and aluminum plate, and black granite (there is almost no facade that doesn't look three-dimensional)—but also the opulence. This is with good reason, as the luxurious building was paid for by the Phit Foundation, which is run by Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny Knight. They told the architects, “Do it better,” according to Gene Sandoval, design partner at ZGF, and flew some of the design team across the country and overseas to look at sports facilities, museums, and halls of fame, as well as to source materials. From custom Nepali rugs to slate showers, to furniture tested to withstand the weight of a dozing 300-pound lineman, no object or surface received standardized treatment. (The cost of the building is confidential. Some stories have reported $68 million, but ZGF could not confirm the figure, nor speculate on how it was derived.)

The football center, meant to support well-rounded athletes and streamline their diet, strength training, recreation, and game strategy under the watchful eyes of coaches, completes a trilogy of university buildings that ZGF and Firm 151 have designed for the Knights' foundation, the firms' real client—the buildings only get handed over to the school once they are complete. The architects' relationship with the Knights began eight years ago when Sandoval and Firm 151's Randy Stegmeier—who studied architecture at U of O—designed Oregon's athletic-medicine facility and, in 2010, completed an academic center for athletes. Phil Knight is an Oregon alumnus too.

Dreamlike as its luxuries may appear to student athletes, the 145,000-square-foot complex bears down on the earth with its muscular form. It's a meticulously built and elegant fortress, bold enough to grab drivers' attention as they whiz by on their way to Autzen Stadium, the Ducks' home-game turf, and refined enough to hug a new zenlike plaza, with gurgling pools of water to its east. (The architects also re-skinned two of the center's neighbors in O-punched box-ribbed metal panels and wood composite, visually tying the buildings together.) “The massing of the building was about movement, as when a football player is grabbing a ball and running back,” says ZGF's Robert Snyder, project manager, who also studied architecture at Oregon.

The six-story, L-shaped structure is really two buildings connected by a three-level glass sky-bridge. The first building is composed of two long bar volumes, one sliding off the other like a precarious Jenga piece. They separate the new plaza from the practice fields. The second is a boxier complex to the north in which the architects placed the more cerebral portions of the program, away from the adrenaline-charged practice fields.

The long bar volumes contain a two-story weight room with custom machines and a mezzanine-level sprinting track; a view of the fields keeps motivation high. The upper bar contains coaches' offices, a players' lounge, and recruitment rooms. Throughout the center, the architects worked with Todd Van Horne, a designer at Nike, and exhibit designer Gallagher & Associates; the interiors are a balance of pop graphics, accents in the Ducks' signature greens and yellows, and a motif best described as Dad's den—if Dad lined his walls in football leather and sourced his recliner from Poltrona Frau.

Sandoval and his team spent months studying the players' schedules and translated that knowledge into the sequence of spaces, the goal being to move players through their day as quickly as possible. Aside from a ground-floor lobby meant for the public and fans, the rest of the other, squarer volume—the “teaching box”—is for athletes. Beyond the lobby are the team's walnut-paneled dining room and the cafeteria. In an aggressive take on classic diner décor, neon letters spell out EAT YOUR ENEMIES AND THE OTHER FOOD GROUPS. The players' locker room on the third floor (the “soul” of the building, according to Jeff Hawkins, the senior associate athletic director of football administration and operations) is fitted out like a spa, with Carrara marble, a barbershop, and solid-surface lockers bearing the silhouettes of uniformed players. The room's air supply is exhausted through the lockers, providing airflow and controlling odors. Climbing farther upstairs, the fourth and fifth floors house lecture-style meeting rooms for the offense and defense connected by a double-story atrium. A two-level walnut-paneled theater spanning these floors has a view to the east and Autzen Stadium.

Since its debut, the football center has elicited a mixture of awe and cynicism in the press, much of it about the professionalization and monetization of student athletics. Heard more than once during a recent tour of the building was the refrain that the Ducks may not see another facility as grand again, even if they go pro. As writer Drew Magary wrote for the sports blog Deadspin, “If I played for Oregon, I would never wanna graduate.”


University of Oregon

ZGF Architects LLP
1223 SW Washington Street, Suite 200
Portland, Oregon 97205
PH: 503.224.3860

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Gene Sandoval, Design Partner, Associate AIA (Registered Architect)
Jan Willemse, Partner, AIA (Registered Architect)
Bob Packard, Partner, Associate AIA
Robert Snyder, Project Manager, AIA (Registered Architect)
Kelvin Ono, Project Architect, AIA (Registered Architect)
Brad Iest, Designer
Owen Turnbull, Designer
Yoshiyuki Watanabe, Designer, AIA (Registered Architect)
Dienenke Kniffin, Designer
Walker Templeton, Designer
Keith Eayrs, Designer, AIA (Registered Architect)
Peggy Tasker, Designer, AIA (Registered Architect)
Julia Bannon, Designer
Man Hui Chan, Environmental graphics

Interior architect: firm151/ 1223 SW Washington Street, Suite 300 / 503.863.2590

Randy Stegmeier, Principal Interior Designer, AIA
Jenn Ward, Designer
Ryan Yaden, Designer, AIA
Sean Gummer, Designer
Anson Morris, Designer

Engineer(s): KPFF (structural & civil); Integral Group (mechanical); Sparling (Electrical)

Landscape: PLACE Studio, Cameron McCarthy

Lighting: Sparling / Candela

Acoustical: Altermatt Associates

Other: Hammer Design Consultants Associates, Inc. (food service consultant); Todd Van Horne (environmental graphics); Charlie Marrow Productions (3D sound); Gallagher Designs (exhibit design), Jack Aguirre (graffiti artist)

General contractor: Hoffman Construction Company

Jeremy Bittermann at 971.570.2020 and Pete Eckert at 503.331.9165
© Jeremy Bittermann; © Eckert & Eckert

Baumberger Studio, Portland, OR

CAD system, project management, or other software used:
Autodesk AutoCAD 2013


145,000 square feet



Completion date:

August 2013



Structural system
Post-tension concrete and steel frame. Steel Vierendeel truss and suspended floors on hanger rods.

Manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project:
Carr Construction (Steel and Steel truss)

Exterior cladding
Building Cladding: Shanxi Black Granite – Western Tile and Marble / Best Cheer Stone Group, Xiamen
Plaza Paving: Preto Carvao Basalt – Yellow Mountain StoneWorks, Seattle, WA

Metal Panels:
Custom profile aluminum panels - Streimer Sheet Metal Works, Inc., Portland, OR
Cobra Building Envelope Contractors, Spokane, WA and Auburn, WA
Metposite Flat Metal Wall Systems, Hubbard, OR

Metal/glass curtain wall:
Benson Industries, Portland, OR

Moisture barrier:
Grace Perm-A-Barrier

Curtain wall:
Benson Industries, Portland, OR

Other cladding unique to this project:
Extruded aluminum grille – Benson Industries, Portland, OR
Basalt stone landscape wall cladding – Ed Lockett, Stone Sculptures, Inc., Portland, OR

Built-up roofing:
TPO roof, Johns Manville

Metal frame:
Benson Industries, Portland, OR

Glass: Benson Industries, Portland Oregon

Insulated-panel or plastic glazing:
DeaMor Associates, Inc., Vancouver, WA and Seattle, WA

Entrances: Benson Industries, Portland Oregon

Metal doors:
Benson Industries, Portland, OR

Wood doors: ARTEK, Beaverton, OR

Sliding doors: Panda Windows & Doors, Record-USA

Special doors:
Watertight doors – VR Containment LLC Inc., Fresh Meadows, NY

Locksets: CR Laurence, Schlage

Closers: CR Laurence, Dorma

Exit devices: Ingersoll-Rand, Von Duprin

Pulls: CR Laurence/ Sugatsune/ Linnea

Security devices: Ingersoll-Rand, Von Duprin

Other special hardware: Tice Industries (custom bathroom hardware)

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings: Ceilings Plus, Knauf Danoline

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Lamer Woodworking/ Sandy, Oregon; ARTEK/ Beaverton, Oregon and Calgary, CA

Paints and stains: Sherwin Williams, Rodda Paint

Wall coverings: Custom [materials: Glass/ Custom Football Leather]

Paneling: Custom, metal and wood

Plastic laminate: Nevamar/ Formica/ Abet Laminati

Solid surfacing: Corian/ Hi-Macs

Special surfacing: Pental Granite + Marble [carrara reception desk]

Custom exterior stone engraving: Oregon Memorial

Custom external graphic metal panel [Player’s Walk]: Mid-Valley Metals, FM Sheet Metal Inc.

Custom glass graphic panels: Pacific Window Tint

Custom graphic magnetic glass panels and mirrors: Moonshadow

Custom graphic wall covering: Infinity Images

Floor and wall tile:
Design and Direct Source Tile/ Portland Oregon [unisex restrooms/ single occupant restrooms with wall murals of championship bowl rings]
Dal Tile [building floor tile throughout]
Stone Source [head coach restroom/ pro scout restroom]

Resilient flooring: MONDO

Carpet: Bigelow/ Mohawk Group, Astro Turf

Raised flooring: ASM Modular Systems

Special interior finishes unique to this project: Football Leather by NIKE

Laser engraving: Green Demon

Interior signage: Tube Art Group, ES&A

Office furniture: Herman Miller/B+B Italia/ Custom desk furniture [Lamer Woodworking]

Reception furniture: B+B Italia/ ARTEK/ Sun Valley Granite

Fixed seating: Poltrona Frau [theaters, media room]

Chairs: Herman Miller/B+B Italia/ Zanotta/ Poltrona Frau/ VITRA

Tables: Custom [Lamer Woodworking]/ Karimoku/ B+B Italia/ CP/ Thonet

Upholstery: B+B Italia/ Zanotta/ Poltrona Frau/ Maharam/ NIKE custom football leather [media room walls]/ Fitzfelt

Other furniture:
Foosball Tables: custom by RS Barcelona [Barcelona]
Billiard Table: custom by Golden West Billiards [Portland OR]
Rugs: DesignTex with custom patterns by firm151/ Todd Van Horne
Stools: ARPER
Custom Lockers: CP [players lockers, coaches lockers and all equipment/ maintenance lockers]
Barber Chair: custom by KOKEN
Custom Mirrors: Electric Mirror
Accessories: Peter Pepper Products/ ANYTHING/ Alessi/ Bobrick/ VIPP/ Blomus/ Stelton/ custom

Interior ambient lighting: RSA, Focal Point, FLOS

Downlights: RSA, Focal Point, FLOS, Portfolio

Task lighting: FLOS

Exterior: Ligman

Dimming System or other lighting controls:

Elevators/Escalators: KONE

AXOR Hansgrohe
Custom [players locker shower fixture column]
Custom [vanity trough sinks]

Energy management or building automation system: Robert Lloyd Sheet Metal, Inc., Independence, OR

Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project:
Electronic track – Microgate OptoJump

Intumescent paint on trusses - Carboline