Earlier this month, I was in Colorado and went to Red Rocks Amphitheatre for the first time. I hardly have words to express the multi-sensory experience I was able to partake in. Red Rocks is the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world. Stationed between two monoliths, each over three hundred feet tall, and overlooking the natural surroundings and the distant city of Denver, it would be hard to top. I was in complete awe— sharing the moment with over 9,000 others—as the Avett Brothers took the stage. Now, as tempted as I am to write a concert review (one word—amazing!), my focus shifts back to the venue. Words and pictures will hardly do it justice, but the fantastic outdoor space is worth exploring.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre is one of, if not the, most perfect intentionally integrated outdoor environments. Concerts were first held here in the early 1900s and in 1927, the space was bought by the City of Denver and further developed as a venue for concerts, shows, and special events, with a focus on preserving the natural beauty of the area. Not only does the site inspire awe with its beauty, but it has been integrated effectively as well. While most of us are not so lucky as to have breathtaking monoliths to our left and our right, we can still make an effort to adapt to and integrate alongside our natural environment.
It may seem obvious, but when looking to develop your site, first consider what is already there. Are there naturally occurring elements that should be highlighted? Certain areas that attract certain wildlife? Make sure your site is set up to enhance, and not take away. This refers to resources as well as aesthetics. There is nothing wrong with diverting the eye from specific elements, but in some cases, if you’ve got it—flaunt it! If the marsh is the focus, be sure it does not become overshadowed. Interpretation should serve as an opportunity to enhancement visitor experience, not draw attention away from what is actually there.
In addition to utilizing the space effectively, Red Rocks made a point of honoring the natural environment. Typical precautions such as proper recycling, waste disposal, and not disrupting or destroying the landscape were promoted with tact. A concerted effort was also taken to encourage visitors to engage in the environment respectfully (hiking, biking, etc.) and the visitor center offered historical and geological information about the site. Opportunities to volunteer or provide monetary support were also readily available. Encouraging visitors to connect with your site, keeps them caring and coming back for more.
Red Rocks offers more than a concert venue, it’s an opportunity to be in touch with our surroundings. How does your site connect with its natural surroundings? How do you encourage visitors to engage and explore? Consider these elements when thinking about the focus and opportunities for your site. If you’re really lucky, maybe your boss will allow you to ‘do some research’ and go to Red Rocks yourself. I assure you it will be an informative and memorable experience!