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Flowing Diagrid Design


Lightweight aluminum entryway connects amphitheater with fairgrounds

pacific amphitheater entrance, creative metals, june 2017, metal architecture

The Pacific Amphitheatre is an intimate 8,000- seat outdoor performance area at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, Calif. A recent redesign by Los Angeles-based MAKE Architecture better integrates the amphitheater with the rest of the fairgrounds, providing a more convenient and immersive atmosphere for visitors.

Competed in early 2016, the project seamlessly connects the amphitheater through a new 32,500-square-foot plaza and entryway. The new entrance pavilion is an acoustical vestibule that mitigates sound, protecting local residents from unwanted noise, while allowing visitors to experience the energy and excitement of seeing a live performance.


Intricate Façade

The entryway's intricate façade is the focal point of the redesign, with MAKE Architecture capturing elements of live performances and incorporating them to form a seamless and symbolic physical connection to the amphitheater. To achieve this, the firm designed the façade using a series of cross-sectional panels with diamond-shaped negative spaces that dissipate as they progress from top to bottom. The flowing diagrid pattern is reminiscent of a stage curtain lifting. It also folds horizontally to form the ceiling, with the diagrid pattern continuing to evolve as it extends toward the amphitheater, similar to an inverted red carpet.

William Beauter, AIA, LEED AP, co-founding principal of MAKE Architecture and project lead, says they developed the kernel of approaching a façade in a similar manner for a 2009 competition, playing with transparency and solidity simultaneously within the regularized module as its generating datum. "As the design for the amphitheater ensued, we wanted to cross pollinate the venue experience with the plaza and sought to create a visually permeable surface that would perform the acoustical and security functions necessary, yet allow for an experiential commingling," he explains. "When engaging the amphitheater design with that kernel of the initial idea, germinating from a simple defining order overlaid by a modulating surface solidity resonated with us almost as sound may appear in frozen form. Both wall and ceiling act as a single envelope gesture with an evolving aperture pattern, traveling across the length of the structure. That sense of temporarily frozen modulation naturally adapted itself to use in a music venue."


pacific amphitheater entrance, creative metals, june 2017, metal architectureConnecting Points

Since the new entryway connects the amphitheater to the surrounding property, it was essential to mitigate the acoustical energy of the venue, Beauter says. "The volume of the lobby itself, along with absorptive materials built into the floating ceiling and wall assemblies mitigate the acoustical energy passing through and escaping to the surroundings," he explains. "Incorporating a building in this manner had the secondary benefit of the lobby being available as an accessory space for stand-alone events or supporting use by our new plaza when the amphitheater was not in use."

Glass fiber, reinforced concrete and precast concrete were all considered before aluminum paneling was selected for its longevity and versatility. "Ultimately for the aesthetic intent and the budget we wanted to achieve, the metal panels were best suited," Beauter explains. "CRL became our system of choice in no small part because of its ability to engage in the process early and collaboratively develop the unique system needed for this specific project."


pacific amphitheater, metal architecture, june 2017, creative metalsCollaborative Design

The firm collaborated directly with Los Angeles-based CRL-U. S. Aluminum to engineer and fabricate the elaborate façade, which is made up of 2,500 square feet of CRL-U.S. Aluminum's 11-gauge Wet Joint Ultra custom aluminum panel system in Pearl White.

Working together allowed the two companies to ensure all objectives were achieved, including the visually permeable façade's elaborate details that wrap around and integrate with the adjacent window systems. Taking this into account, CRL-U.S. Aluminum engineers used in-house 3-D modeling capabilities to develop accurate models and then produced shop drawings to illustrate how the aluminum panels would interface with the surrounding construction.

"We used detailed 3-D modeling in concert with a high degree of coordination between our team as well as the manufacturers of the components integrated into the system," Beauter explains. "Integration of the structural system and developing the flexible framing system accommodating the variations was critical to both accomplish the functional and design intent. The diagrid is absorbed within the skin, housing support for the wall, fenestration and waterproofing, clad by the custom powder-coated aluminum brake-formed panel system." 

The systematic flexibility due to the aluminum's malleable nature made it extremely well suited to achieve the intent of the skin and the various unique panels comprising of the whole. "Additionally, using the metal panel system allowed us to select from a wide range of finish and color," Beauter says, "which we ultimately selected a mildly pearlescent white powder coating."

The firms knew from the beginning that it would be challenging to be cost-effective with the design. "Partnering early on with the team at CRL allowed us to identify limitations, and its ability to fabricate directly from our drawings kept costs down," Beauter says. "It was an ideal collaboration that allowed us to create something special." 

Pacific Amphitheatre Entrance at OC Fair & Event Center, Costa Mesa, Calif.
Facilities Management West Inc., Costa Mesa
Architect: MAKE Architecture, Los Angeles,
General contractor/installer: AWI Builders Inc., St. Vernon, Calif., (323) 589-5111
Metal wall panels: CRL-U.S. Aluminum, Los Angeles,
Photos: John Linden