Strings Music Festival Pavilion

Staff | September 28, 2010

The reverse bowstring truss system is installed in the Strings Music Pavilion.

For two decades, the city of Steamboat Springs, CO, held its classical and popular music concerts in a large tent. In fall 2008, the tent was replaced by an elegant timber-framed concert hall that is already drawing record crowds.

Steamboat Springs is now celebrating the completion of its $4.3-million Strings Music Festival Pavilion. Patrons are enjoying the warmth and ambiance created by the exposed timber framing of the new venue.

The new pavilion is a showcase of glued laminated timber, which provides warm aesthetics and much improved acoustics for the classical, jazz, blues, or world music. Its tall windows frame the panoramic beauty of the Rocky Mountains, and the roof lines are arched like the bow strings of a musical instrument.

The stage has doubled in size, but the seating capacity is about the same as the previous 550 seats in the tent.

"The setting is more intimate, and the sound is greatly improved, allowing the audience to feel up close and personal with the musicians," said Kay Clagett, Strings executive director.

Architect Bill Rangitsch, who designed the unique structure, said, "We felt the exposed timber would be in harmony with our mountain community. Glulam also has the warmth, clean lines and versatility for almost any type of design."

Violinist Andres Cardenes, who has performed at the festival many times, tested the acoustics in the new structure, and the sound reverberated strongly throughout the hall.

"The wood makes you admire this new place," Cardenes noted. "When you come in here, you feel at home, because the musicians are playing instruments made from the same basic material."

The building received the highest acoustical rating as measured by Denver acoustical engineering firm D.L. Adams Inc.

The pavilion's most distinctive architectural element is its 33-foot-tall glulam bowstring truss ceiling. Running the length of the hall are two elongated, S-shaped trusses that dramatically arch over the center of the hall in what architect Rangitsch calls a "reverse bowstring truss combination of wood beams and steel supports."

The glulam bowstring trusses span 66 feet 4 inches. Kingpost trusses are 38 feet, and rafters start at 54 feet long.

This interlaced truss structure was the most efficient way from an engineering and financial point of view to support the roof without the use of columns, and it also provides an elegant visual element. Rangitsch notes that the timber portion is in compression, and the steel is in tension.

"There was some discussion around town about remodeling the tent, but the decision was made to build this elegant pavilion with materials reflecting the rustic, natural appeal of the mountains," he said.

Architect Rangitsch said that the use of glulam, with its inherent dimensional and structural stability, greatly increased the precision of the fabrication and assembly. When the building was finally assembled on the site, the framing was off only 1/8-inch on the longest span.

The roof is capped by a copper-clad dome.

The Strings Music Festival will present more than 50 concerts during this season.

Story courtesy of the American Institute of Timber Construction, Centennial, CO.


Key Project Participants

Executive Director: Kay Clagett

Architect: Steamboat Architectural

Contractors: Spearhead Timberworks; TCD; Tom Perkins

Glulam timber supplier: QB Corporation