Amphitheaters are freestanding buildings that are usually round or oval in shape, have a central area, and seats that surround it. In Greek, the word means theater with seats on all sides, and they’ve held important roles in history for hosting spectator sports, musical events, and theatrical performances.
Types of outdoor theaters include ones with open or roofed stages, open or closed seating areas, temporary theaters, and hybrid theaters. Not only do architects have to take the building features into account when designing amphitheaters, but also performance equipment like lighting, sound, rigging, stage draperies, and off-season storage.
The style of amphitheaters has certainly changed over the years, but these are some of the coolest we’ve seen in terms of architectural design. This sampling will show you how diverse amphitheaters really can be!
Theatre Antique d’Orange – Orange, France
Located in the Rhone Valley of France, this amphitheater was once the home to ancient Roman performers and is remarkably well-preserved. This is one of the best examples of provincial Roman architecture that still exists today. You can visit the museum nearby to learn more about how it was built and attend the historic Les Chorégies d’Orange festival, which is a summer opera event held each August.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, Colorado, USA
Without a doubt, one of the best places to attend a concert in the U.S. is at Red Rocks Amphitheatre just outside of Denver, Colorado. This amphitheater is unique because it’s wedged between huge sandstone rocks and known to be the only naturally-occurring amphitheater in the world. This means that the architects got to work with the stunning elements of nature instead of against them, and the acoustics are amazing, too. The amphitheater was opened in 1941 and is open year-round.
Auditorium Parco Della Musica – Rome, Italy
Another great Roman amphitheater worth mentioning is the Auditorium Parco Della Musica, which was created by the legendary architect Renzo Piano. This open-air amphitheater is surrounded by beautiful vegetation and has three large concert halls. Petrassi Hall has 750 seats, Sinopoli Hall has 1200, and Santa Cecilia has 2800. The halls were designed as gigantic musical instruments, or resonating chambers, that sat in a landscape and were grouped in a semi-circle. During early excavations, a Roman villa was discovered and incorporated into the display.
The Greek Theatre – Los Angeles, California, USA
The Greek went through an extensive design process before being dedicated to the city in 1930. Ultimately, this building was designed to incorporate modernizations of the standard Greek theater. Starting in late 2015, the amphitheater began undergoing a new refurbishment and structural enhancement.
Masonic Amphitheatre – Clifton Forge, Virginia, USA
Created by the architects design/buildLAB in 2012, this project transformed a post-industrial brownfield into a performance space and public park. This was part of a larger effort to bring together the parts of an arts-based revitalization in neighboring buildings while minimizing concrete use and avoiding disturbance of the adjacent creek. Digital fabrication helped keep this project sustainable, and trusses were machine-fabricated off-site to minimize manufacturing time and waste.