Posted in projects on December 31, 2017 1:36 pm EST

Open Air Destination

From the archives, LifeAustin Church builds an inviting amphitheater in a Texas live music hotbed.

ENVIRONMENTAL PRESERVATION: The siting of the building produced several challenges related to environmental preservation (the church and the design team wanted to remove as few trees as possible). Water drainage and diversion measures are also facets of the design.











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TAGS: ampitheater, architecture, avl design, community connection, design, music, sustainability,


By Carolyn Heinze

SOUND CONTROL: The sound levels within the amphitheater and at the property line are monitored; basically, if the sound exceeds a certain level, an alarm is sent to the engineers at front-of-house.

It’s no surprise that music is central to the leadership and congregation at LifeAustin Church. Headed up by Pastor Randy Phillips, who makes up one third of the Dove Award-winning contemporary Christian band Phillips, Craig and Dean, the church’s campus is located in West Lake Hills, a southwestern district of Austin, Texas, which for the past several decades has dubbed itself the Live Music Capital of the World.

This fall, LifeAustin is celebrating the opening of its new amphitheater, resting on the same site as the church’s main worship center. Featuring 1,000 covered seats and capacity for another 500 to sit comfortably on the lawn, as well as an outdoor concourse area for smaller gatherings, the amphitheater was designed to not only accommodate LifeAustin events but also welcome those hosted by community organizations.

"They’re there to serve church members, but they’re also there to serve the community. It becomes a way of bringing people onto their property."

—Stephen Pickard, Principal, Good Fulton & Farrell (GFF) Architects, Dallas, TX

Stephen Pickard, principal at Good Fulton and Farrell (GFF) Architects, the Dallas, Texas-based firm that designed the facility, relays that originally, the amphitheater was to be built in phases, with Phase I consisting of the main seating area and the stage house, and audience members would be invited to bring their own lawn chairs. “It was pretty complicated in terms of how we would actually execute that plan,” he admits. Aside from leaving a few minor elements for later construction, the church, recognizing the complexity of a phased construction model, decided to build the facility all at once.

Even in the initial phased construction plan, covered seating was mandatory: Austin can get very hot, and the church’s leadership was insistent on providing some shade. But it’s not always 100% shady under the covering—the sun moves after all, and will seep in depending on its angle and the time of day.

Sound Control Measures

Because LifeAustin’s campus is adjacent to a residential neighborhood, a big issue with the project related to sound. While the City of Austin’s noise ordinances may be less restrictive than those elsewhere, the church’s neighbors were concerned about how much noise an outdoor music venue would generate. LifeAustin worked with both the neighborhood groups and the city to ensure that the church was following noise ordinances. GFF, working in conjunction with the Dallas-based theatre, acoustical, and audiovisual design firm Idibri, developed a solution whereby the sound levels within the amphitheater and at the property line are monitored; basically, if the sound exceeds a certain level, an alert is sent to the engineers at front-of-house.

RESIDENTIAL RELIEF: The amphitheater is positioned on the site so that most of the sound travels back toward the church's own property. Acoustic treatment on the stage house, ceiling and walls also helps to absorb sound.

The stage itself is also oriented so that it isn’t facing any residential areas head-on, and “the amphitheater is positioned on the site such that the direction where most of the sound will be traveling goes back toward the church’s own property,” explains Ben Boeshans, CTS-D at Idibri. The firm also provided a number of other specifications to isolate sound: the facility’s side walls extend up higher than normal to help block sound that would otherwise spill out toward the neighbors, and a number of treatments were applied to absorb sound. “We put an extensive amount of acoustic treatment both in the stage house—on the walls and the ceiling—and out in the seating, and there are panels on the roof of the shed as well, just to deaden the sound.” Boeshans adds that this enables high impact sound in the amphitheater itself without unreasonable spillover. “It was all about containing it while not ruining the experience.” A d&b audiotechnik V-Series loudspeaker system also helps to keep sound where it should be.  continued >>