New York Times
Image courtsey of Paul Finkel
by Fred A. Bernstein
Fans of Formula One come to see the action on the track, not what’s around the track, said Juan Miró, an architect. But luckily for him, the owners of the Circuit of the Americas, the new Formula One site on the edge of Austin, Tex., wanted to create a memorable setting for events like the 2012 United States Grand Prix (which runs Friday through Sunday).
And that meant Mr. Miró and Miguel Rivera, partners in Austin’s Miró Rivera Architects, got to design more than grandstands and ticket booths; their work includes a 250-foot observation tower made of thousands of steel pipes, painted red, as if to mimic the streaks of lights trailing racecars at night. The tower, with two winding stairways and a high-speed elevator, culminates in a beaklike protrusion that extends over the track, offering views of the action below through its glass floor.
Mr. Miró said the tower was like a Formula One car, in that it was both “very strong and very light.”
But its real connection to speed is that it was built, he said, in record time — just seven months. (Much of it was assembled in nearby Dripping Springs, Tex., and trucked over in 25-foot sections).
Bobby Epstein, co-founder of Circuit of the Americas, said he hoped the tower would become a landmark, making the track instantly recognizable to TV viewers. He declined to give the price of the tower, except to say that the steel alone “cost two or three million dollars” and that he expected it to become a revenue-producing tourist attraction.
The tower will also help orient visitors to the facility, which covers some 1,200 hilly acres. But will it help orient the Formula One drivers, as they pass the tower at 200 miles an hour or more?
“The drivers will never notice it,” Mr. Epstein said.