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Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park

A Cloud-Like Canopy of Steel

Thomas Phifer and Partners

Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park
By Michael Webb -

Indie rock is as deep rooted in Austin, the capital city of Texas, as are the blues in Nashville. Nearly half a million fans attend the Austin City Limits Music Festival last October, and that passion for pop manifests itself throughout the year. So the Moody Amphitheater, which seats 6,000 on a park lawn, is already a big draw for local and out-of-town bands. But it is intended to be much more than a concert venue. Thomas Phifer and Partners joined with Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates landscape architects to create a multifunctional structure that appears to float; an elegant canopy to shelter community activities as well as ticketed events. Lighting, speakers and sets can be trucked in, clamped to the structural frame, and quickly removed to free up the stage.

The Moody Amphitheater is named for the Texas foundation that endowed the Moody Arts Building on Rice University campus in Houston (THE PLAN 104), and it was commissioned as the first in a series of improvements by the Waterloo Greenway Conservancy, partnering with the city. In contrast to Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago, where a complex acoustic shell faces onto a dedicated performance space, the amphitheater is as open as the rest of the Greenway, a 14-ha complex of plantings and meandering walkways on the eastern edge of downtown.
It straddles a creek and near neighbors include the State Capitol, an expansive UT campus and the Red River Cultural District. So it has the same backdrop of high-rises as the Pritzker, but the emphasis here is on the pastoral, rus in urbes.

Most days anyone can wander in to practice yoga or join friends for lunch in a shady retreat from the heat and glare of summer. This is part of a welcome trend to open up performance and sports facilities (such as the new football stadium in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Inglewood) so they can serve the public
year-round. In developing the program, the...

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