Nature's theater
Saluda Shoals, SC


Completion Date:

2001

This project proposes a way to inhabit a natural landscape while maintaining a critical attitude towards that inhabitation. Developing an understanding of the relationships between constructed elements (the meeting house), natural elements (the stream and forest canopy), and the proposed site for a new amphitheater led to our overall site strategy. The progression from the parking area, through the site, to the amphitheater, encourages visitors to study their personal relationship to the surrounding park. The stream becomes a threshold between the built environment within a natural setting, and the construction of an event that welds theatrical performances to a spatial experience of the natural world.

A bridge crossing the ravine is situated such that upon crossing, visitors conceptually enter into a relationship with the site much like they will with the main attraction.

Momentarily removed from the forest floor, visitors engage the site as if they were on stage, and nature was their audience. This experience prepares (and possibly humbles) the human audience for the “show” that nature provides, usually without a watching assembly.

The amphitheater proscenium functions according to the precedent that the bridge established. It creates a framework from which all programmatic elements connect. Entry into the seating area occurs through a compressed space directly under the proscenium and stage floor, while “entry” into the show occurs through the frame itself and under a built waterproof canopy. The blurred spatial distinction between the built canopy and the natural tree line integrates the amphitheater into the forest’s context with ease and minimal disruption to the site as a natural entity.

Allowing the program to determine the formal design solution enables the overall site strategy to embrace a critical vantage of concepts relating the human inhibition of a natural landscape to the mental space created during theatrical performances.