The new Lauridsen Amphitheater constructed at Water Works Park in Des Moines, Iowa, stretches toward the sky just like the surrounding oak trees twist and stretch toward leafy canopies in this riverside woodland. Encompassing 1,500 acres, Water Works
Park – which is situated next to the Raccoon River west of Gray’s Lake – is one of America’s largest urban parks and a critical source of clean drinking water to 500,000 Central Iowans.
The $1.5-million amphitheater serves as a focal point within a multi-phase master development plan for the park owned by Des Moines Water Works, a regional public utility. Introduced in 2013 by the non-profit Des Moines Water Works Park Foundation in
conjunction with the City of Des Moines, the plan is designed to grow the park and increase recreational and educational opportunities for visitors.
The Des Moines office of RDG Planning & Design was hired by the foundation to provide an underpass connection to an adjacent park and enhance an underutilized flood-prone open space alongside a mature arboretum, according to Tyler Jessen, AIA, NCARB,
RDG Planning & Design.
“I was charged to provide a flood-resilient dual-sided amphitheater structure that would primarily stand as a folly in the park for the everyday experience but then transform as an armature to hold equipment for musical performances,” said
Jessen. “The Water Works amphitheater provides a unique venue for patrons to participate in small to large events such as concerts while being completely surrounded by mature trees and open sky. Des Moines’ extensive network of bike paths
leads directly to this venue, allowing for alternative means to arrive at the venue.”
The dual-sided amphitheater is designed to accommodate small-scale performances (audiences of less than 2,000) and medium- to large-scale performances (audiences of 2,000 to 25,000). Small-scale performances face south toward a smaller lawn while medium-to
large-scale performances face north toward a large field. To accommodate these varying crowds, the amphitheater stage is covered with an ellipses-shaped canopy that measures 65 feet wide by 45 feet long; it’s supported by two intertwining tree
limb-like steel legs that stand 31 feet tall on the north and 23 foot tall on the south.
The amphitheater’s canopy is clad in a total of 2,125 square feet of 4mm ALUCOBOND® PLUS aluminum composite material by 3A Composites USA including 2,055 square feet in Sakura from the Spectra Collection of color-shifting finishes and 70 square
feet of Reflect Mirror from The Natural Collection Element Series.
The amphitheater is designed not only to reflect the park’s twisting oak trees in the canopy’s legs but the changing seasons in its cladding, according to Jessen.
RDG Planning & Design began work on Phase I of the park’s master plan – including design of the Lauridsen Amphitheater – in spring 2016. Construction of the amphitheater began in summer 2018 and was completed in May 2019.
Henkel Construction Co. of Des Moines, Iowa, served as general contractor for the project.
Metal Design Systems Inc. (MDSI) of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, fabricated a total of 410 ALUCOBOND PLUS panels, including 350 panels in the Sakura finish and 60 panels in the Reflect Mirror finish. Panel fabrication was completed in approximately four months.
MDSI also created a production model that was followed by all trades on the job so that “structural steel, standing seam roofing and all framing was coordinated effectively,” according to Matt Rechkemmer, regional sales manager, MDSI.
The Waldinger Corp., headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, installed the ALUCOBOND PLUS panels with the MDSI Spline Reveal Drained and Back Ventilated Rainscreen System – Series 20.
® ALUCOBOND is a registered trademark of 3A Composites USA.
Photography: © Joe Crimmings Photography courtesy of 3A Composites USA