Water Works Park


Des Moines Water Works Park Foundation
Des Moines, IA
1,500 acres
Completion date
July 2019

After eight years of planning to reshape an underutilized nine-acre public green space, this new amphitheater stage and park restroom bring the park to life. Designed to be resilient in the face of multiple annual flood events, the project also builds on existing trails and introduces the broad local demographic to new public space adjacent to a well-established arboretum. 

The Lauridsen Amphitheater draws upon its site's context and constraints to become an iconic experiential sculpture for both park enthusiasts and concert attendees. Its design and function promote cultural interaction and local entertainment for all. The site, known for its extensive arboretum, presented a challenge as it rests within a flood plain. It existed as an underutilized asset to the city to which it belongs.   

Now, the park has been transformed into a unique, mixed-use space. Driven by the need for a resilient design on this often-flooded site, elegant detailing and material selection elevate the amphitheater - a performance venue for small and large events alike - into an iconic park sculpture, anchoring this renewed and contemporary space for citizens and visitors to enjoy.   

The performance space is programmed as a dual-sided stage, an unusual design challenge for an amphitheater. Only two steel columns, which spiral up from the 100-year flood marker, are anchored to the stage with a resilient concrete base. The columns are comprised of weaving steel pipes, which follow a grid system inspired by the park's 100-year milestone and play off the contextual backdrop of the park's trees. The columns were crafted with great care, meeting the highest level of AESS standards and fabricated with a high degree of precision in a factory-controlled environment.    

The amphitheater canopy is clad in iridescent painted aluminum panels, which morph into variegated shades of green and red when viewed in direct sunlight. The resilient approach of using painted aluminum doubles as a poetic gesture, as the panels interpret the fleeting nature of change in seasons akin to leaves on a tree. The reflective surface of the panels also becomes an armature to view the park in fresh ways - another opportunity for park-goers to connect with this lovely site.  

The Lauridsen Amphitheater, looking south across the stage.
Concert crowd at the amphitheater
Our renderings were used in creating an animation that helped launch the masterplan for the Des Moines Water Works Park. Community members and the Park’s foundation are able to visualize and experience the proposed performance venue and the impact it will have on the Park.