The Metamorphosis: Marc Fornes breaks ground on a parametric amphitheater in Maryland

Architecture City Terrain East News Unveiled
(Courtesy Marc Fornes/Theverymany)

(Courtesy Marc Fornes/Theverymany)

On September 12, New York–based practice Marc Fornes/Theverymany broke ground on its largest project to date, the Chrysalis Amphitheater project. The parametric structure’s fluid form is intended to define a public space and live performance venue for outdoor gigs and shows.

With its classic Marc Fornes aesthetic of scale-like parts forming a larger mass, the transitional space has a form resembling a Taxodium distichum (the Swamp Cypress tree commonly grows in eastern U.S. marshland). The enormous roots create a multifunctional space with the back of the stage being available for children’s performances and other openings facilitating the loading and unloading of goods for the performances.

(Courtesy Marc Fornes/Theverymany)

(Courtesy Marc Fornes/Theverymany)

Close up of the pleating (Courtesy Marc Fornes/Theverymany)

Close up of the pleating (Courtesy Marc Fornes/Theverymany)

Located in Meriwether Park, Columbia, MD, the project currently has a budget of $3.1 million and is set for completion in 2016.

The scheme’s versatility is aided by the use of various arched openings and a grand proscenium framing the stage. Inside its scaly skin, a system of lightweight aluminum supports, itself with an organic organizational system, holds up the amphitheater shell. The undulating curves and pleated forms contribute to the structural integrity of the design, allowing it to support a substantial light rig above the stage which will serve the performance spaces.

While the scheme almost feels like a temporary installation, like many of the designer’s projects before, the Chrysalis is embedded firmly into a concrete foundation.

Outside of events and concerts, the structure can be used as a shelter from rain and provide shading during the summer. When the stage is not in use, the space’s wooden decking is easily adaptable as a destination for social gatherings and public interaction. Seating arrangements and the layout of the arches frame views across the city, creating a calm environment that dramatically contrasts to its alter-ego as a gig venue.

(Courtesy Marc Fornes/Theverymany)

(Courtesy Marc Fornes/Theverymany)

Marc Fornes/Theveryman said that Chrysalis’ distinct shape is achieved via mesh inflation, a form-finding process. As can be seen in the video below, the structure is almost stretched from its anchoring base points on the ground which are also the nodes of the arches, thus allowing it to look as if some parts are billowing in the wind. These anchor points are also carefully spaced around the trees in the immediate vicinity, which appears to give its woody surroundings a mark of respect.

Finally, the complex structure has been colored in hues of bright green as a reaction to its setting in the park. The luminosity and brightness of these tones however, separate it from its natural environment, allowing it to stand out notifying passers by of its presence.

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