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With noise on their minds, neighbors get look at design proposals for new Volunteer Park amphitheater

(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

Architects have been working with performers, Seattle Parks and the Volunteer Park Trust community trust to develop a concept design for a new amphitheater at Volunteer Park. Last week, they had the chance to show off their work.

While some park neighbors have concerns about noise and maintenance, many attendees of an open house on Wednesday at the Miller Community Center expressed overall support of the preferred design for the new bandshell which features a translucent butterfly roof, and a back wall that can slide into hiding when it is not needed for performances.

“I’m just very pleased with the improvements,” said Randolph Urmston, who lives north of Lake View Cemetery.

Urmston said he does get some noise from certain performances permeating his home, but hopes it will be better managed.

Noise was one of Dave and Barbara Nordfors’ top concerns at this stage in the project as well.

ORA Architects, which is partnering with Walker Macy Landscape Architects for the project, had the decibel levels at three events studied — a Seattle Chamber Music Society performance, a Seattle Peace Concert and the Vibrations Festival. None of the events exceeded the allowable noise limit.

However, the Nordfors, who live right by the cemetery as well said the noise problems come when bass thumps through their home.

What the new Volunteer Park Amphitheater could look like

The bass issue can’t be solved with a new design, Owen Richards with ORA said; the city has to ensure compliance with its noise ordinance.

“I’m not overly convinced that the sound issue is going to be adequately addressed by (the parks department),” Dave Nordfors told CHS.

However, Nordfors likes that the new amphitheater will be located north of the current venue constructed in 1971. He also likes that the plan calls for construction of a path originally envisioned by the Olmsted Brothers, the original designers of the more than 100-year-old park.

Nordfors also thinks the option to tuck the back wall away and create an open pavilion is a worthwhile idea. The hope is when the amphitheater is not being used for dramatic performances, music or rallies, the open structure will be utilized by other park goers for picnics, exercise or other activities.

“We really like the idea of keeping this as open as possible,” said Emily Perchlik, with ORA Architects.

One open house attendee expressed concern about maintaining and cleaning the proposed translucent roof but Richards said it would be constructed with walkable areas so workers could safely access it.

The proposed translucent roof helps the amphitheater to blend in with the landscape, but the venue also stands out on its own, Richards said.

The roof will improve sound from the stage while providing shade. The translucent material will also keep performers more visible to audiences during daytime performances versus a solid roof that would create a cave-like space, Richards said.

Other plans for the new amphitheater call for re-grading the seating area with a focus on reducing the flat space in front of the stage and improving ADA accessibility. The architects are proposing locating the required restrooms on the sides of the structure, making them more visible, improving safety.

The concept design is funded by Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Small and Simple Grants, and the project requires approval from Seattle Parks and Recreation.

Construction is slated for 2017-2018 with a grand opening scheduled for December 2018.

And what the Seattle Asian Art Museum expansion could look like, too…

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One thought on “With noise on their minds, neighbors get look at design proposals for new Volunteer Park amphitheater

  1. Huh. This design is very modern and seems quite out of character with the historic beauty of this park. Has there been any attempt to design something that might align better to the conservatory design? Or the sweet Tudor style of the bathrooms just East of the Conservatory? The concrete benches + trellis just south of the reservoir? Or even the art deco style of the museum which was built a little later on? That could all be so charming. I’m afraid that the current design will look just as sad and disposable as the current amphitheater that needs to be torn down…as today it now looks sad and “ugly.” That it won’t hold up to the test of time.

    Is it possible for architects today to take on the challenge of creating structures with some beautiful features from the past? Ones that play with the gorgeous structures already being enjoyed for many generations and incorporate some of the historic details and design? Leave the modern stuff to the brand new parks like the sculpture garden downtown and please offset the modern boxes that are sprouting up around our hill. Celebrate the limited and precious historic architecture that is the hallmark of north Capitol Hill? Now THAT would be cutting edge architecture, in my opinion.