It’s not often that the stars align and everything seems to come together seamlessly. The new Levitt Pavilion, an outdoor amphitheater in Ruby Hill Park, gives the impression that it was born of its location, emerging fully formed and beautifully integrated with the surrounding landscape. However, the story behind what is now Denver’s first true outdoor concert venue within city limits is a bit more complex than that.
Five years in the making, the Levitt Pavilion kicked off its inaugural season on Thursday, July 20, 2017 and will offer 30 free concerts this summer with plans for 50 free concerts to take place each following year.
But it’s more than free concerts that set Levitt Pavilion apart. This state-of-the-art outdoor amphitheater, which has the potential to accommodate up to 7,500 people with its open lawn setting, has a unique architectural design. In addition to the 30-foot cantilevered roof, a thrust stage and a functional arrangement that allows it to melt back into the park when it’s not in use, the building itself is an instrument.
Yes. With “Skysong,” a public art piece that has been installed as part of the construction, guests can “play the venue,” even if they never step on stage.
In the middle of the plaza, a monochromatic keyboard allows would-be musicians to literally play the building, It is constructed of metal discs that are suspended by springs, with strikers behind them, explained Chris Zacher, founder and executive director of the nonprofit organization behind Levitt Pavilion Denver.
“Skysong” is just one of the elements that tie into celestial references that already exist in the park. The playground at Ruby Hill Park is a series of constellation-themed areas; a large plaza features an oculus that serves as a sundial. If “Skysong” plays into this cosmic theme, then the venue brings it back to earth.
“‘Skysong’ is the art piece that talks about the connectivity with the sky,” said Jared Floyd, project leader for the Levitt Pavilion Denver with Studiotrope Design Collective. “Then we wanted to have the actual shell be the ‘Earth Song,’ which talked about the connection with the Earth.”
Taking advantage of the natural bowl shape of the terrain, the pavilion is situated at the base, allowing for excellent acoustics. The design of the building incorporates a roofline that mimics a ribbon: when guests are seated for a performance, it seems as if the lines flow from right to left, reaching up and touching the sky. The thrust stage, which extends out into the “pit” area, provides an excellent viewpoint for almost 180 degrees of seating, both in chairs and on the lush, green, sloped seating.
“It’s a fun, whimsical design that you don’t see everywhere,” Floyd said. “There are some unusual ideas, like the earth is opening up to provide a show.”
There are additional details that have been carefully considered that will be appreciated by the performing artists but may be overlooked by the general public, such as a convenient load-in space, spacious green rooms and seamless “simulcasting” of shows on Denver 8, the municipal access television station for the City and County of Denver. Even an interesting geometrical cutout in the roof was incorporated with performances in mind.
“The gesture in the middle is a victory pose,” Floyd explained. “It’s a spotlight for the star.”
The building was designed to be unique, interesting and indestructible, Zacher said, owing to its unique location as a public park. The materials used — stainless steel, galvanized steel and concrete — illustrate this juxtaposition of the urban environment within the park setting. But the finished product is anything but industrial. Guests approach on a winding path through trees, entering onto the welcoming patio through conifers. Ruby Hill Park is the highest point within city limits and, though the Denver skyline will be visible in the distance in the background of the stage, that delineation will melt away as the sky seems to reach down and settle upon the stage.
“I don’t know if other any amphitheater looks like this,” Zacher said.
It’s a fitting description for the first of its kind, nestled in an urban landscape that is itself straddling two worlds. But Levitt Pavilion’s light, both figurative and LED-generated, is just beginning to shine. This star is destined for greatness and is ready to take its place in the constellation of Denver performance spaces.
Location: Levitt Pavilion at Ruby Hill Park, 1380 West Florida Ave, Denver. (levittdenver.org)
2017 Concert schedule
Aug. 3: The Suffers with The Other Black
Aug. 4: John Fullbright with the Drunken Hearts
Aug. 6: Rocky Dawuni
Aug. 9: Hippo Campus with Slow Caves and Corsicana
Aug. 10: The Dustbowl Revival with Charley Crockett
Aug. 13: The Band of Heathens with Blake Brown & The American Dust Choir
Aug. 17: The Haunted Windchimes and Edison
Aug. 18: My Body Electric and Chemistry Club
Aug. 24: Gaby Moreno
Aug. 25: Mariachi Sol De Mi Tierra with Fiesta Colorado Dance Company
Aug. 27: New Breed Brass Band
Aug. 30: Ripe
Sept. 2: Chali 2NA with Reason the Citizen and Povi
Sept. 8: Pandas & People with Chimney Choir
Sept. 17: Katastro
Sept. 21: Shel with Megan Burtt
Katie Coakley is a freelance writer, editor and inveterate traveler living in Denver. She has written for Colorado-based magazines and internationally-based online publications. You can find more of her work at katiecoakleywrites.com.
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