Just how important is the design of the spot that you see your favorite band or stage show? If you’re reading Styleture odds are that it not only makes a difference, but can make or break your experience. But how much does it really matter? Well, how different would it be to see your favorite artist or show in a corporate-owned stadium? How about a contemporary theater? A tasteless dive bar? Great amphitheater design can make an artist truly shine visually and can frame your entire outing, from the moment you get your ticket ripped to optimistically awaiting an encore. That’s why we’ve decided to catalog our list of what we consider some of the best architecture and design of outdoor venues in America.


Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles, CA

Known equally for its cultural significance as its influential architecture, the Hollywood Bowl is one of America’s most famed outdoor amphitheaters. Besides being home to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Bowl has hosted legendary acts such as Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra, and B.B. King. The Bowl features stunning arches over the stage that help make the amphitheater markedly superior to cookie-cutter layouts both acoustically and visually. The band shells weren’t added to the Bowl until the late 1920’s, but they dramatically enhanced the amphitheater’s natural acoustics. Interestingly, the shell went through a variety of changes over the course of the last century. Shells were installed every year from 1926–1928, including a design by Lloyd Wright (son of Frank) that was deemed the best acoustically, but too avant-garde visually. The ‘permanent’ shell was installed in 1929 and remained only slightly modified until the current iteration which was introduced in 2004, when it was updated to accommodate a full symphony orchestra. Combine all of this with the historic backdrop of Los Angeles and you’ve got one of the best designed sites for a show in the country.


Red Rocks Amphitheater – Morrison, CO

No list of outdoor venues would be complete without Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO. Boasting a capacity of almost 10,000, there isn’t a bad seat in the house, as the higher up you go the more panoramic your view of the Colorado mountains becomes. The locale is aptly named, as it’s surrounded entirely by red rocks which enclose the stage as well as the crowd. Red Rocks has hosted an incredible amount of influential acts including The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, and even renowned opera singer Mary Garden. Similar to The Gorge, which also made our list, Red Rocks’ architecture is absolutely stunning, but not because of a great mind or inspiring idea. Rather, Red Rocks is an overwhelming example of Colorado’s mountain landscapes. The amphitheater is made up of two 300 ft. monoliths that add up to an incredible atmosphere and impressive acoustics. That’s almost double the height of Niagra Falls! By electing to not do much and simply keep the area as is, Red Rocks remains an attraction for tourists and locals alike.


Greek Theater – Berkeley, CA

It’s an incredible feat that The Greek is over 100 years old given its location, but its architectural influence dates back much further. Based on the ancient theater of Epidaurus, the Greek is located directly on one of the most prestigious public universities in the country, UC Berkeley. The amphitheater features a coliseum-esque seating arrangement and has even been added to the US National Register of Historic Places since the early 1980s. The design allows for an intimate environment without compromising capacity or acoustics. The unique and ancient Greek-influenced architecture truly makes it a gem not only to the Bay area, but California and beyond.


The Gorge – George, WA

Located approximately 150 miles east of Seattle, The Gorge Amphitheater is known less for its architecture and more for the natural beauty that surrounds the site. Built on land that was originally planned to be used to grow grapes, the Gorge opened in 1985 and quickly became known for its panoramic views of the Columbia Gorge canyon as well as the river. Simply stated, The Gorge is home to one of the most remarkable views in the country, and they’ve managed to place a stage right in front of it without tampering with Washington’s natural beauty. The Gorge is a celebration of America’s inherent architecture. Our next pick couldn’t be farther from natural, but it features an awe-inspiring composition nonetheless.


Jay Pritzker Pavilion – Chicago, IL

Chicago’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion is perhaps the most unique on this list. The structure of the Pavilion is unlike any we’ve seen before, which comes as no surprise given that Frank Gehry composed the project. The Pritzker Pavilion may not be able to compete with The Bowl or Greek in terms of history, but it certainly does in originality of architecture and arrangement. Featuring a stage surrounded by extraordinary stainless steel plates which emerge from all directions, the Pavilion throws out the status quo and brings a masterful futuristic setting to any performance. This place packs all of the beauty of Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall (which was built only a few years prior) while still allowing fans to enjoy the outdoors. The Pavilion stands 120-feet high and has an overhead trellis of steel pipes which envelope the crowd with loudspeakers, creating an experience unavailable anywhere else in the country. The architecture is considered a massive acoustical innovation, as it reflects and reverberates the sound inside, which then allows audience members throughout the Pavilion and beyond to receive the same warm sound. From there the loudspeakers had to be suspended by cables and brackets in order to achieve the specific positioning that the job required. The system then had to be weatherproofed through a series of independent machine rooms that stabilized power, as Chicago’s winter’s can get particularly brutal. This hard work surely paid off, as the venue is a fan favorite within the city.

From the natural beauty of Red Rocks to the industrial design of the Pritzker Pavilion, all of these venues provide an extraordinary stage for a performance. Unfortunately a lot of these destinations will be closing soon to accommodate the change in seasons. Don’t worry, we’ll clue you in to the best designed indoor venues too just in time for Winter!