Merriweather Post Pavilion is a world-renowned outdoor amphitheater nestled in the trees of Symphony Woods in Downtown Columbia, Maryland.
Each summer since 1967, Merriweather plays host to the biggest acts in performing arts, music, and entertainment, attracting hundreds of thousands of guests to enjoy performances under the stars. Designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, the pavilion’s signature roof and wooded setting have made this fan- and performer-favorite an iconic example of the “shed” style amphitheater. It is consistently ranked as one of the best outdoor performance venues in the country.
The pavilion has not undergone any major renovations since its construction in 1967, but the Downtown Columbia Master Plan of 2010 called for a multi-phase renovation and modernization to ensure the pavilion’s viability for the next five decades.
The renovation plans—based on physical needs assessments from 2004 and 2014 and developed by the Howard Hughes Corporation, the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission, and the pavilion’s current operator—call for improvements to the stage house, back stage facilities, seating, and fan-services plazas (restroom, concessions, box offices).
Great care was taken in the plans to keep and enhance the unique attributes that define the pavilion, and its most iconic feature – the wooden roof – will be preserved, though it will be raised to accommodate a larger stage proscenium opening.
The plan below shows the full scope of the renovation project. It also shows which buildings will remain in their current state — notably, the original “barns” which have been on the property since its days as a farm, prior to acquisition by the Rouse Company as part of its Columbia development.
As of April 2016, Phase I of the renovation project—the West Plaza—has been completed and Phase II is well underway. The first phase of the project involved an entirely new set of buildings in the West Plaza, including new restrooms, concessions and a box office.
The design of the buildings in the West Plaza take many cues from the existing signature roof of the pavilion and this design will carryover into future phases. Moreover, the rebuilt stage house will incorporate a cedar façade similar to the cedar accents on these buildings.
A stunning view of the new stage house will greet visitors entering the west gate next to the new box office. Once complete the façade on the stage house will enhance the overall aesthetics of the venue with decorative cedar and lights.
Phase II of the project involves the complete replacement of the stage house. The new stage house is significantly taller than the original, allowing the venue to host bigger and more diverse productions with expanded overhead capacity for bigger sets and lighting rigs.
As noted earlier, the stage house will include a cedar façade similar to the existing pavilion roof. In addition to the cedar, the façade will incorporate lighting elements to enhance the venue’s overall aesthetic.
The second phase of construction also includes a significantly improved back of house building. Prior to these renovations, production offices, dressing rooms, and catering were housed in temporary facilities that had, over the years, become permanent. The new back of house building will include state of the art facilities to ensure the highest quality of performances and performers at the venue.
Work on the stage house will be substantially complete later this spring, and the remaining work on Phase II will be complete shortly thereafter.
The next phase of work is being designed now and will likely include replacement of the seating bowl and raising the main pavilion roof. Work on this phase is expected to begin in October, after the 2016 concert season.
Future phases of work include the replacement of the restrooms, concession, and box office buildings in the South Plaza, and a new restroom building to be shared with Symphony Woods-Merriweather Park. Additionally, plans for a new office space and warehouse are being developed now.
In designing the remaining renovation work, the Howard Hughes Corporation, the Commission and Merriweather’s operator are exploring options to provide community facilities, such as meeting, rehearsal, and office spaces, that could be used by local organizations.
As plans for future phases come into greater focus, the Commission will share these concepts and drawings with partners and stakeholders in the community to ensure that Merriweather Post Pavilion’s cultural significance to Columbia and Howard County can be strengthened.