With technology becoming somewhat of a second nature to the American population, it can be surprising how refreshing it is to get back to that which makes us most human – being in nature. There is something special that simply replenishes the soul when surrounded by nature. Whether it’s the fresh air, the sound of leaves rustling or birds chirping, the natural world can make one forget about the worries and stresses of everyday life. So too, can music.
Outdoor entertainment is not a new and innovative idea. Enjoying the arts in nature has been a pillar of culture since the beginning of humanity. The demand for outdoor venues has steadily persisted, offering opportunity in the art community as well as the architecture industry.
Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods is a tribute to the arts and the environment, with the Chrysalis Amphitheater venue in a spacious and beautiful park located at the center of downtown Columbia, Maryland.
The Chrysalis is part of a seven-phase park project developed by the non-profit organization, Inner Arbor Trust. The multi-use space officially opened to the public at the 2017 Earth Day celebration, where several local bands christened the stage and kicked off the season. The 5,000-square foot structure consists of a main stage accompanied by a smaller side stage. Larger performances have the opportunity to use the full space. The Chrysalis serves as a performance space for the many music festivals hosted in in the Park, and facilitates weekly film evenings in the summer.
A world-class, multidisciplinary team worked in concert to design and build the highly creative Chrysalis, including designer MARC FORNES / THEVERYMANY; architect Living Design Lab, LLC; theatrical and lighting design and engineer Arup; specialty design/builder A. Zahner Company; landscape architect Mahan Rykiel Associates; civil engineer Gutschick, Little & Weber; and general contractor Whiting-Turner Contracting Company. The producer and director of this collaborative team was Michael McCall, President of Strategic Leisure and founding President & CEO of the Trust.
In creating a stage, pavilion and sculpture all in one, the extensive and talented team developed a structure that is both visually pleasing and functional. With nine “legs” coming down to the foundation, the structure has eight asymmetric openings - one of which is the main stage, while another functions as both a smaller stage and the primary entrance into the Chrysalis.
The structure itself is fabricated of metal beams covered in metal roof panels. The metal roof panels, fabricated and installed by A. Zahner Company, create a shell surrounding the stage. Coated in four custom green shades of the Sherwin-Williams Coil Coating brand, Valspar’s Fluropon® Solar Reflect (SR) exterior architectural coating, the 8,200-aluminum shingles cover the canopy of the structure from top to bottom. The multi-hued pattern is designed to make the structure look as if it is growing out of the ground.
The metal roof panels provided by Zahner are made of durable and smooth-finished materials which protect the structure like a coat of armor. By incorporating the Zahner ZEPPSÔ building system, the architectural and engineering teams were able to build Marc Fornes’ beautifully pleated, organic design. The ZEPPS system is designed for use on projects with unique shapes and structure, such as custom canopies like the Chrysalis. With the ZEPPS system, Zahner provides production of a digital model, custom prefabrication, rapid installation, and much more.
The vibrant colors of the Chrysalis were made possible with the collaboration of Valspar and its Fluropon SR exterior architectural coating. With supreme color-matching abilities, Valspar was able to create the perfect shades of green desired by the architects. The coating itself, Fluropon SR, is equipped with solar reflective pigments that protect the structure from harmful ultraviolet rays, keeping the Chrysalis cool and countering sun-damage to the fantastic colors. Additionally, the 70 percent PVDF exterior architectural coating provides the structure with first-class resistance to weathering, chalking, fading, dirt and stains, as well as chemical degradation. Fluropon SR gives the Chrysalis a beautiful and playful aesthetic that will remain vibrant for years to come.
The bold design and overall look of the Chrysalis sets it apart from other amphitheaters, yet does not take away from the beauty of the surrounding environment. Although it is fabricated of industrial materials, the natural appearance of the amphitheater embodies a large living organism that could be a native inhabitant of the Merriweather Park and Symphony Woods’ ecosystem.
The Chrysalis is a place of gathering, collaboration, interpretation and listening. Even on a rainy day, it offers a canopy to ride out the storm with a good book or a provocative conversation with a friend. The unique multiuse amphitheater is engaging and intriguing, inviting the public to explore and enjoy the Chrysalis as a piece of art, a perfect picnic spot or a venue to watch their favorite band or movie. The Chrysalis gives locals and visitors a place to unplug and enjoy the undeniable connection we humans share with Mother Earth. With the help of Valspar, Zahner and many others, the Chrysalis offers its patrons a beautiful and relaxing environment to enjoy nature and art.
Project: The Chrysalis Outdoor Amphitheater
Location: Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods, Columbia, MD
Owner & photo credit: Inner Arbor Trust; Columbia, MD
Coatings provider: The Valspar Corporation; Minneapolis, MN
Metal panel manufacturer/installer: A. Zahner Company; Kansas City, MO
Designer: MARC FORNES/THEVERYMANY; Brooklyn, NY
Architect: Living Design Lab, Baltimore, MD
Theatrical design: Arup