Feature Stories


The Architect Artist

The Architect Artist

People as accomplished as Bryan Trubey ’83 usually have an origin story. They can point to an experience, a person or a book that lit the spark that led to a passion and became a scintillating career. Trubey—an innovator in the field of sports architecture, having designed the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium among many other major arenas around the world—was apparently born with an innate sense of his destiny.

“I don’t ever remember not wanting to be an architect,” he said from an airy conference room at the Dallas headquarters of HKS Inc., an international architecture firm. “I can’t tell you where it originated, but I have one silly story. In first or second grade, I drew an illustration of what I wanted to be: a world-famous architect living on an island. The drawing included all the things I would build on the island.” Trubey’s mother saved it.

Great Mentors

From this early memory, the young Trubey progressed on his path with an astonishingly advanced sense of direction. He remembers spending hours at the Dallas Public Library reading architecture books. “I checked out everything on Frank Lloyd Wright. I read about Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. I loved all of it.”

When he was in high school, the Dallas public school system started a career development center that provided architectural classes. Trubey took his academic classes in the morning and was taught by a professional architect in the afternoons. During his senior year, he worked at the Arlington architectural firm of Harry Allison, owned by Texas A&M graduate Harry J. Allison ’67.

“The early technical experience I gained with Harry is one reason I can work in this monumental building type,” said Trubey, now 56. Under Allison’s influence, Trubey learned not to be afraid of anything technical. “He taught me how to build something completely innovative by using technical requirements to our advantage,” he recalled. Trubey couldn’t have recognized at the time how important this lesson would be. “Now, when I design monumental structures, I see structural challenges as opportunities rather than limitations.”

Bryan Trubey '83 combines the dual concepts of transparency and structural expressionism in his monumental building designs.

When it came time for college, Trubey confessed that his eagerness to start his own career made him a reluctant student. He chose Texas A&M mainly because it was where Allison had attended. While in Aggieland, Trubey found new mentors in the then-dean of the College of Architecture, John Only Greer, and several professors: Rodney Hill, Tom Colbert and Duane Cote. “Rodney Hill was the perfect first architectural professor for me,” he said. “I entered college with a lot of real-world experience, having already worked at Harry Allison. This was different from most students and probably stunted my creativity in some ways.”

Hill’s class opened Trubey’s mind. “He did these exercises about approaching architecture as an art form first,” he said. “He taught abstract thinking and how to interpret existing forms. It was poetry, art and architecture in one.” Spurred by Hill’s class, Trubey further schooled himself on art, sculpture, literature and other fine arts.

He also developed another artistic endeavor while at Texas A&M. Having grown up singing in his church choir, he joined the Singing Cadets his freshman year. By the end of his second week in College Station, he had 60 best friends and was soon singing in 50 off-campus concerts throughout the school year. “So I had two different lives at Texas A&M—architecture and the Singing Cadets,” he said. “Both creative. Both wonderful experiences.”

From the Ground Up

After graduation, Trubey worked for Allison until he was 26. “I loved him like a father,” he said, “but I realized I couldn’t design houses for the rest of my life.” He moved to Chicago for a job and fell into sports architecture “completely by accident.”

While in Chicago, some friends who worked for HOK—a global architecture firm and one of the first firms to start a sports practice—told him about an open position. Trubey got the job and became senior designer on a new stadium in San Antonio: the Alamodome. After that, he worked on the national stadium for the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Even this early in his career, Trubey already incorporated the dual concepts of transparency and structural expressionism—the practice of letting a building’s structural parts become key design pieces, rather than hiding them—in his creations.

“There was no façade, no skin. It was all structure,” he said, describing the Hong Kong project. “The ticket offices were a carved triangle in the ground, with steps going down. Then we created a huge landscape of stairs that moved all the way up to the main concourse. It emulated the farming terraces throughout Asia.” The stadium’s design earned the highest award in the profession: an American Institute of Architects National Design Award.

In 1992, Trubey was recruited to start the sports program at his present firm, HKS Inc., which was also started by an Aggie, Harwood K. Smith ’36. Two other Aggies at the firm became important mentors, Trubey said, in both architecture and life: Ronald Skaggs ’66 and Joe Sprague ’70. Both also set a good example for Trubey on the importance of giving back to the College of Architecture. 

At first, Trubey and his team took part in many projects, such as the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Park, in which they were the architects of record—a firm that plays a behind-the-scenes role in executing someone else’s concept. On the American Airlines Center, HKS was the sports architect, meaning Trubey and his team handled the design of just the arena’s court surface and seating, rather than the entire building.

Eventually, Trubey and his team took the lead on sports projects, such as Lucas Oil Stadium, home to the Indianapolis Colts. He has also designed key buildings on the Texas A&M campus, including Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park and the Davis Player Development Center. The most famous Trubey building—at least in and around Texas—is AT&T Stadium, home to the Dallas Cowboys. The $1.15 billion building is a prime example of the transparency and structural expressionism that run through Trubey’s work, with a pair of quarter-mile-long steel arches serving both as vital support and as a striking design feature. The Wall Street Journal called the stadium “simply mesmerizing,” and as the world’s largest column-free space, it’s also an engineering marvel.

  • AT&T Stadium

    AT&T Stadium, formerly Cowboys Stadium, is a retractable roof stadium in Arlington. It serves as home of the Dallas Cowboys and as host site for the Cotton Bowl Classic. The stadium was completed on May 27, 2009.
  • AT&T Stadium

    AT&T Stadium is nicknamed "The Death Star" by Dallas-Fort Worth sports fans. Its maximum capacity with standing room is 105,000.
  • Blue Bell Park

    Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park is home to the Texas A&M baseball program. The park underwent a major renovation in 2011. New features included an expanded concourse and concessions area, luxury suites, a new press box, club seating, two grass berms, expanded locker rooms and coaches offices, a student athletic center, and extended seating closer to the field.
  • Davis Player Development Center

    The Davis Player Development Center provides training facilities for the Texas A&M football team.
  • Lucas Oil Stadium

    Located in downtown Indianapolis, Lucas Oil Stadium is home to the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. The stadium features a retractable roof and window wall, which allows the Colts to play both indoors and outdoors. The implementation of kinetic architecture provides for quick conversion of the facility to accommodate a variety of events.
  • U.S. Bank Stadium Interior

    U.S Bank Stadium opened in 2016 and is home to the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. The translucent roof and large wall panels give fans a fabulous view of downtown Minneapolis.
  • U.S. Bank Stadium Exterior

    U.S. Bank Stadium is a fixed-roof stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The roof's slanted design was inspired by Nordic architecture and is designed to shed snow during the harsh Northern winters.

Trubey considers it innovative for other reasons as well. Knowing that team owners Jerry and Gene Jones were patrons of the arts, Trubey proposed that they commission art pieces for the stadium. “I realized we could make the building a destination in the art world,” Trubey reported. “I asked them to consider having modern artists do monumental pieces in a modern monumental structure.” The result is 16 mostly large-scale artworks, including Annette Lawrence’s breathtaking, hourglass-shaped, steel cable sculpture that hangs over one of the entrances. So impressive are the pieces that the stadium offers art tours three times per day, four days per week.  

Trubey’s sports program at HKS is perhaps most successful because it includes more than just architects. He has gathered a team of strategic thinkers who can help team owners generate one-and-a-half to two times the revenue of a competitor’s building. With detailed marketing research about a team’s fan base, HKS can offer roughly 30 different seating options and experiences at different price points.

“Selling seats is how owners make money,” Trubey said. “Being innovative in this way gives us a more effective pitch to the owners, since we’re talking to them in a commercial language. We’re able to do architecture and business at a high-quality level. Because of this, we believe we are the only group truly evolving this building type.”

Back to the Classroom

Since AT&T Stadium, Trubey has designed the Minnesota Vikings’ stadium, arenas in Copenhagen and Shanghai, and World Cup venues in Brazil. He’s working on a new ballpark for the Texas Rangers and with Mark Cuban on a headquarters and practice facility for the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavericks project helped Trubey contribute to his alma mater in an extraordinary way. Trubey, who was named an outstanding alumnus of the College of Architecture in 2008, regularly judges student designs and participates in other events at the college. In spring 2016, he was awarded the Thomas Bullock Endowed Chair in Leadership and Innovation in the college, which gave him the opportunity to teach a semester-long class for 40 first-year students in the Master of Architecture program. During the class, Trubey had students design practice facilities for Cuban on four different proposed sites and then present their designs to Cuban himself.

To give architecture students a true client experience, Trubey had them design proposed practice facilities for the Dallas Mavericks. Mark Cuban (right) reviewed the students' designs himself.

“Many of the students had never worked in a real office or had contact with a real client,” Trubey said. “Mark was very involved in the class and offered his vision during the semester.” For the final review, Cuban gave a critique of each design. “It was not quite Shark Tank…but close,” Trubey said with a laugh. “Mark is really interested in acting as a mentor and has a gift for working with young people. He gave the students great feedback and an authentic client experience.”

Trubey, a father of four, thinks it’s only fitting that he gives back to the university. Elements of his Aggie life influence his professional life in key ways. “HKS has traditionally employed many Aggies,” he said. “Our founder, Harwood, was a military guy and believed in the idea of, ‘Give me a few good men, and I can conquer the world.’ Also, there’s a sense of sharing the pie and spreading the credit around. That’s been a real tradition in our firm.”

The Aggie Code of Honor itself has been a guiding light for him. The words, “….or tolerate those who do,” especially ring true. “That raises the bar,” said Trubey, who’s turned down many projects because he didn’t feel right about the people he’d be working with. “Some of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make were to not be associated with projects that could be quite lucrative, but weren’t the right environments for us to spend our time and gifts.”

As a man of faith, Trubey sees his talents as a gift. Even though he’s now the world-famous architect he drew in his mother’s treasured illustration, he remains grounded. “Gifts come from God,” he said. “They are not ours.”