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Designs for new amphitheater at Volunteer Park nearing completion

FRONT STAGE IN USEORA Architects is finalizing the schematic design for Volunteer Park’s new amphitheater, which it plans to present to the public in the first week of April.

There may be a few tweaks to the project after the public presentation, but overall the concept is established, Emily Perchlik, with ORA, told CHS.

“It’s going to be a terrific addition to Volunteer Park,” said Eliza Davidson, chair of the Amphitheater Task Force. “… It’s blossomed into something that is a much bigger contribution to the character and use of the park.”

ORA Architects and Walker Macy Landscape Architects previously developed four concepts using feedback from more than 30 performance organizations and presented them to the public in the fall of 2016.

While some park neighbors had concerns about noise and maintenance at the meeting, many attendees expressed overall support of the preferred design for the new amphitheater.

“There has been remarkable consensus on this project,” Davidson said.

That goodwill is a marked contrast to the opposition that arose against the $49 million plan to overhaul the infrastructure of the 1933-built Seattle Asian Art Museum and expand the facility by 3,600 square feet into Volunteer Park. With the SAAM project back on track for its final permitting and approval processes, it appears ready to join the amphitheater on a roster of major construction projects slated to take place in Volunteer Park over the next decade including the seismic overhaul of its iconic water tower. In the meantime, SAAM has closed for a two-year and change hiatus for the construction.

The amphitheater project is seen by many who have participated as a responsive effort that has mostly worked with suggestions and requests from the community. Based on public feedback and input from a structural engineer, the design has been refined through a few rounds of iterations.

“There were things from all of the concepts that we liked so we tried to take the best pieces from all of our concepts and make them work together on the site,” Perchlik said.


Back of House View

The design now calls for the translucent roof over the stage — Concept 1 (PDF) — to be wavy, “referencing a leaf” Perchlik said, opposed to the butterfly roof featured in the preferred design presented last fall.

Pivoting doors, instead of sliding, for the backstage area are another change that came about in the past few months.

Bathrooms for the public and the performers will also be located on the same side of the stage. On the other side of the stage, there will be a flexible room that can be used for costume changes and storage.

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 new amphitheater is planned to be located just north of the current one.

Following the April meeting, the architects will begin refining details and taking any additional public comments into account when moving into design development and drafting construction documents.

Grants from the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods and funds from Volunteer Park Trust have moved the project forward so far. The Seattle Parks Foundation will be the driver for fundraising and grant seeking to bring the project to life. The total project cost — design through construction — is estimated to be $3 to $4 million.

Davidson anticipates that fundraising will be successful.

“I think there will be all kinds of different people who want to support this,” Davidson said, adding that the new amphitheater will allow for a wider variety of performances, provide more opportunities for informal gatherings, and be a shelter from the weather.

Construction is planned for fall 2018 with the amphitheater opening in July 2019.

The park’s aging stage has served the park since the early ’70s. The popular venue is host to dozens of annual events — scheduled and impromptu — and serves thousands of people as a stage for dramatic performances, music, rallies, and more.

Thanks to ORA Architects and the Volunteer Park Trust for renderings of the latest designs.

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3 years ago

Sigh… this amphitheater design is a total snoozer. Looks like the awning off of a suburban retail store. How does glass & metal do anything for acoustics? And this costs $3M??

If modern was the desired look, than the architect should go much MUCH more heroic! Think Grant Park in Chicago, or some other sculptural panelized shell. Heck, you could put some UW architecture students on it and do a parametric design scheme with more impact than this.

Alternatively, if the designers are at a loss for coming up with something unique, just give it the half-round “Hollywood Bowl” style design. At least that would fit in with the historic character of the park. This design, however, just looks like a cheap DIY project.

3 years ago

There is a public open house on April 6th from 5-7 at the Conservatory to provide comments directly to the design team.