Just about every Tuesday for three years, structural-engineer Erleen Hatfield arose at 3:30 a.m. to catch a 6 a.m. flight from New York City to Atlanta. The early riser was determined to make a 9:30 a.m. meeting for her most dynamic project in more than a quarter century of practice—a 2-million-sq-ft stadium with a 14.5-acre convertible roof that opens and closes at its center, much like a camera lens iris. The daring design, which brazenly departs from kinetic-roof sports architecture, makes earlier “boxes with sliding lids” look almost simple.
During the plane’s descent—and especially since last year when the 27,500 tons of roof steel started taking shape—Hatfield received her reward for the sleep deprivation: a birds-eye view of the imposing facility, which is 305 ft tall. “Seeing the progress from the air was amazing and exciting,” says Hatfield, a principal of BuroHappold Engineering (BH), structural engineer for Mercedes-Benz Stadium, formerly called the New Atlanta Stadium.