Good design is part of what makes cities culturally relevant. Raleigh's Downtown amphitheater is a placeholder until a longer-term solution can be planned and built. The interim solution is as functional as it is ugly, but what should we expect for the future?
What's wrong with the one we have?
For starters, the one we have doesn't work. This temporary kit design is a short-sighted attempt by the city to generate quick cash, not to contribute in creating a meaningful place; but that's OK, it's meant to be temporary. Serious projects take years to build (the Raleigh Convention Center took nearly a decade from planning to execution) and Raleigh needs years to build one, due to an obvious lack of excess funding in the capital budget. Here's the important part: by the time the money and initiative exists to build a real amphitheater, you can't just yank a design out of your ass and expect the project to be comprehensively successful. This kind of comprehensive success will be the only way for Raleigh to stay on top of the charts, and many questions need to be answered before building the real Raleigh Amphitheater.
Where are we going to put it?
A feasibility study will answer this question. Issue an RFQ, conduct a bid process and hire a professional architecture/planning/research firm to explore site choices. How about Nash Square? This is not to say the current location isn't the right one, but part of the design process is to exhaust other possible options.
Who's going to pay for it?
"This is not our problem. We just want to go to shows and spend $100 per pair of tickets and another $30 on drinks, eat at local restaurants and stay at hotels." In other words, it doesn't matter because people will come here to spend money. (Unless the city makes the boneheaded move of building it halfway to the moon a la Carolina Hurricanes' RBC Center.) It sounds like a good investment for the city, or a strong potential public/private partnership opportunity. Propose a bond, issue a TIF or partner with investors.
Case Study: Koka Booth Amphitheater
Architect: Epstein Joslin Architects, Inc.
Photo: © Roberty Benson and Michael Zirkel
Set in a pine-needle blanketed grove in Cary on Symphony Lake, Koka Booth houses the North Carolina Symphony, the Triangle Opera and the Carolina Ballet Company for their summer performances. This brilliantly lit stage was designed by Epstein Joslin Architects out of Cambridge. Capacity is
ten seven thousand, and the complex includes dining, concessions arcade and covered seating in addition to a spacious lawn.
Case Study: Fayetteville Festival Park Performance Pavilion
Architect: Pearce, Brinkley, Cease + Lee of Downtown Raleigh
Photo: © James West
This Pavilion resulted from a master plan & needs assessment study for Fayetteville's performing arts community. Owned by the city, it is the centerpiece of a larger Festival Park, near downtown. This project has won multiple state and local design awards for its architectural design and sensitive environmental and site planning.