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.
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.