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As Superdome's New Light Display Settles, A Discussion On Its Merits

The Superdome is one of those pieces of distinctive architecture that immediately gives you a sense of place. Obviously, most recently the Superdome was the backdrop for tragedy, when it became a shelter-of-last-resort during Hurricane Katrina.

But over the past few years, it's gotten quite a makeover. It culminated last month, when new LED lights were installed on its exterior and it was emblazoned with the corporate logo of Mercedes-Benz, which acquired naming rights this year.

The new, shiny, colorful domed stadium is now the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and what's happened to its facade has been making tongues wag.

On Monday, Doug MacCash of The Times-Picayune kept the story rolling with a piece that expressed his tortured view of the new aesthetic. MacCash wrote:

Colored lights and car logos have completely altered the Superdome aesthetic. Does it work? Well ... yes and no. The colorful new Mercedes-Benz Superdome light display is all right by me, except for the monstrous Mercedes-Benz logos. In a word, they're tacky.

I'm not talking about commercial crassness here; I'm just talking about design. When the folks at Mercedes-Benz build a sleek, beautiful automobile, they stamp it with a few discrete corporate symbols: a blended-in grill ornament, maybe small hub-cap logos, and an inset star-and-ring on the steering wheel. Like any proud manufacturer, the car company wants to trumpet its brand, but it has a sense of reserve. It doesn't trash up its elegant cars with dinner plate-sized partial peace signs on the door panels and hood.

According to Fox 8 New Orleans, the stadium is ringed with 26,000 LED lights, part of an $85 million renovation project. In October, Fox spoke to Doug Thornton, a vice president at SMG, the company that manages the Superdome. He said he expects the lights to make the dome symbolic like other great landmarks in the world.

"I was in the Superdome for the five days during Katrina and I wasn't sure if I would be here or the Superdome," he told Fox. "We were talking about possibly tearing the building down after Katrina. To be standing here six years later and to be celebrating this, it's a very special, prideful thing for all of us."

In his piece, MacCash spoke to Architect Arthur Q. Davis, whose firm designed the dome back in '60s.

He told MacCash the lights were "pretty mellow," and he liked them, because it's "better than having the building torn down."

After clicking through the photo gallery above, what do you think? We'll stop taking responses to our question Dec. 5.

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.