Devoted to preserving the rich history of this Los Angeles symbol, the largest natural amphitheater in the United States, Hodgetts + Fung has reinterpreted the Bowl’s trademark creamy-white curvilinear shell while infusing advanced technologies to provide the world class acoustics originally envisioned by the founders.
The design includes a new conception of the arch, an advanced digital sound reinforcement system, and an expansive stage. Flanking the arch are dramatic, stepped wings harking to the Bowl’s 1920s beginnings. Behind the wings are new backstage areas.
Three towers stand above the exterior shell, and support linear arrays of vertically suspended speakers, which curl just below the proscenium to complement the ellipse and ensure the seamless visual flow of the Bowl’s regal arch.
In addition to incorporating acoustical features that ensure the highest sound quality, the new configuration expands the stage area by 30 percent in order to accommodate the full Philharmonic orchestra within the arch (previously, some musicians were forced to play outside of the shell). Expanding the roof and making the suspended ellipse partially removable dramatically also increased the proscenium height to 60 feet.
The architects’ multi-layered approach to creating a new shell for the Bowl was inspired by the amphitheater’s illustrious history of glamour and generational lore. To help convey this vision, Hodgetts + Fung designed a series of state-of-the-art acoustical engineering features. The highlight of these features is a grand acoustic canopy, which floats as an elliptical ring above the stage and reflects sound waves to all parts of the stage.
A series of computerized translucent louvers extends across the ring, and is programmed to shift into place according to the type of music being performed. The technologies embedded in the acoustic canopy will allow performers to hear each other on stage; a goal that could never be achieved prior. Stored above the acoustic canopy are lighting and sound equipment, which can be customized for each performance act.
Hodgetts + Fung’s design replaces the 1929 shell, which was created by the architecture firm Elliott, Bowen and Walz. In 1928, one year after building a temporary wooden shell, Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, designed the modern shell that remains its trademark shape. Wright’s 1928 shell, however, was demolished after it deteriorated from being unprotected through the winter season.
The original Bowl, which stood for five years, was a simple wooden platform with a canvas shell; a wooden arc proscenium was added in 1926.