Owen Richards Architects presented the final schematic designs for a new Volunteer Park amphitheater during an open house last Thursday, April 6, where the public had a chance to weigh in on the project.

The feedback received was overwhelmingly positive about the design that is promising to bring in new color and liveliness to the park.

“Being able to contribute a space that people will love and cherish is what’s driving this project,” said ORA design associate Juan Rodriguez Lopez. “Current stage that we have right now is not as beloved; it’s an old structure. We want to reach more of the community and bring in more audiences to the park from the wider range of Seattle with the new structure.”

During its initial research, the Amphitheater Task Force reached out to a variety of groups and stakeholders interested in what should and shouldn’t be in the amphitheater replacement. Over the last two years, public forums were held to gather feedback on initial designs to arrive at where they are today.

The new amphitheater is envisioned to be more than just a performance stage. It’s going to be more of an open pavilion, with a revolving door in the center that will act as a backdrop for performances when it’s closed, providing a gateway and open space when open. The concrete will be replaced with a more resilient coating that’s used in skate parks, so dancers and actors will be able to perform on stage and not in front of it as they have been with the old structure.

The new stage is also being relocated to the north of the current location, to minimize the glare from the sun, bring back the original Olmsted pathway for that space and have an open lawn for public use. The roof will be translucent and weatherproof, providing coverage for the performers and the public occupying the park.

“The main thing that everybody’s responding to is the basic movement of the project, the relocation, reintroduction of the original lawn of the park, a space that is more visually open with the door that opens up,” said ORA principal Owen Richards. “That was big and those things clearly helped build a lot of support for the project.”

Another exciting development in the project is trying to design the amphitheater to be part of the Living Building Challenge, where buildings are self-sufficient and collect and use all water on site.

“We’re trying to design a building that wouldn’t require outside water and would collect rainwater and store it to for use, such as flushing toilets on site,” Richards said.  “It’s a challenge to do that for a commercial building that’s being actively used all the time, but could be used in buildings with minimal amount of electricity.”

It took two years to reach the final schematic design stage for the restoration. Next, the project is moving into a fundraising campaign. The current estimate stands at a little under $4 million. If the fundraising is successful, the plan is to complete construction by spring 2019.