Landscapes as Mezzanine and Stage

Garrowby Hill | David Hockney, 1998
[Oil on canvas] 60 in. x 76 in. Collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA.

Theater design and theatric settings as found in paintings, architecture and landscape are exercises in connecting “here” to “there”, linking viewer to the view, integrated to create a compelling visual experience. What makes a visual focus engaging is the power of the revealed information, place, or activity.

Three Precedents

1 Long Meadow, Prospect Park | Olmsted and Vaux, 1873

Long Meadow in Prospect Park is one of Olmsted and Vaux’s modernist translations of theater.  A mile long amphitheater, it is not the setting for a single performance but instead is organized like a charm bracelet, featuring a linear sequence of social and sports events as viewed from the elevated slopes that define it.

2 Naumkeag, Stockbridge, MA | Fletcher Steele, 1929 – 1956

An overlook at Naumkeag in Stockbridge, Massachusetts is explicit in its organization. Adjacent to a key circulation path one steps up to the Great Seat – a mezzanine and overlooks a Berkshire landscape of open fields and distant mountains. It’s a declarative landscape where you sit here and view that – a captivating experience.

3 Collis Center | Dartmouth College

The Collis Center on Dartmouth Green is an institutional example of extraordinary success. It’s “seat” isn’t just placed opportunistically like at Naumkeg, but is in fact a key destination for students on campus – a dining hall with an outdoor terrace. From that setting students look out over another key destination for students, Dartmouth Green. The relationship of programs and settings is near perfect.

Three Projects by Richard Burck Associates

1 Tech Green, Georgia Institute of Technology | Atlanta, GA

In an overtly theatrical construction, Tech Green at Georgia Tech features a tree shaded terraced mezzanine overlooking a sun-lit green devoid of paths to encourage unfettered noontime activities across its expanse.  Seated, one is entertained by the activities on the lawn below and beyond.

2 Fan Pier Scrims, Fan Pier Park | South Boston, MA

In another overtly theatrical strategy of organizing views, Fan Pier Park in South Boston aligns overlapping scrims of varying activities, visible from the carefully sited seating deck along the edge of the Public Green.

3 North Hall, Framingham State University | Framingham, MA

Sited along the ridge line of a glacial drumlin, North Hall at Framingham State University features a first floor lobby from which one looks out to a dining terrace defined by a two-way bench overlooking an amphitheater slope overlooking a play lawn. The setting is composed as a linear sequence of interrelated social programming, amplified by the topographic fall.