The project is situated in the economically strained Virginia rail town of Clifton Forge. It consists of the complete redevelopment of a post-industrial brownfield and warehouse into a public park and performance space and aspires to inject a distinct sense of identity and place at the heart of the dwindling community.
The idea driving the design is that the built elements are sculptural forms emerging out of the landscape of the park. The park is a series of extruded lawns and carved paths that knit the surrounding urban fabric into the site’s circulation. The built elements include a stage with acoustic shell, a backstage with loading dock, green room and wings, a seating area, a sound and lighting control booth and a pedestrian bridge. The ground plane is peeled up from the stage to create its shell. Steam-bent white oak walls curve to define secluded pockets offstage and intermediary zones of varying intimacy, allowing performers to slip in and out of audience view. The interior walls and ceiling of the shell are sculpted to naturally project acoustics toward the audience. Its interior is lined in CNC-routed composite panels with aluminum, zinc, titanium and stainless steel skins. The backstage area is conceived as a creek-side terrace: an intimate place for waiting performers or a casual place for social interaction. To this end, benches pull up from the deck to invite pause and crape myrtle trees push through its surface to provide shade. The rough-sawn white oak cladding dampens the noise of the rushing creek water, allowing it to resonate on the backstage terrace but muting it from the stage and audience. Wood benches provide cool summer seating for an audience of 200 in the sloping gravel orchestra. Staggered alignment allows for wheel chairs and folding chairs to be dispersed within the audience rather than at the periphery. A central aisle, sliced diagonally through the benches, allows people to get in and out with minimal disturbance to their neighbors and accentuates a major pedestrian axis across the town. The elevated lawns provide overflow seating for an additional 800. Sound and lighting is controlled from a covered booth: an oak wedge, nested at the corner of the seating area. Its shape and location provide maximum shelter for the control equipment with minimal impact on audience sight lines. The bridge is a bent path which ramps and steps inviting people to wander as well as providing direct access between the ampitheatre park and the historic downtown. It is supported at mid-span by a forest of leaning columns, which create a sheltered repose along the creek.