Recently, Top Level Engineering designed a unique structure that is helping to foster the love of live music and public performance in picturesque Jefferson County, West Virginia.

“The Amp” at Sam Michael’s Park

a 130-acre public park near Charles Town – is a wood-framed outdoor stage enclosure that is used for public concerts and festivals. The park itself houses little league fields, a community center, a playground and more – but with the addition of the amphitheater in 2019, the park can now accommodate outdoor concerts and other live events – providing an ideal place for the community to gather.

Built to take advantage of the park’s naturally sloped terrain, The Amp allows for up to 2,000 concert-goers to enjoy the performances. The structure includes a thrust stage and a future orchestra pit, which will double as a story-telling area. The stage structure is farm-like and is surrounded by a beautiful river stone foundation with golden brown natural wood board-on-batten siding. It is topped by a green grass-colored shed roof with a large wooden truss spanning over 50 feet above the stage.

Working with HLR Architects

Earlier in 2018, TLE was approached by Helbing Lipp Recny Architects – an architecture firm based in Oakton, VA and Charles Town, WV with whom TLE had worked on several projects before –  to take part in The Amp’s distinctive design.  Situated in an open, scenic field, the structure required an open, yet stable design that could mirror the beauty of the park beyond, while also standing firm against strong winds and weather. TLE excels at design strategies that are beyond typical construction and this type of project was well within our wheelhouse!

Design challenges

Because The Amp is an open structure that is exposed to weather, the design needed to account for those forces and heavy wind loads. Additionally, the structure needed to appear as open as possible to accommodate stage performances. Therefore, the atypical design required walls that were tall, narrow and sheer.

A natural yet sturdy design

Along with HLR, TLE arrived on a cost-effective, yet natural wooden design. Douglas Fir/Larch was specified for the timber trusses due to its strength and resistance to the elements. The design included high bay framing that allowed for storage and operations for performances. The walls and roof were designed as a partially open structure, increasing wind loading and anchorage requirements. The trusses over the front of the stage provide a large open area for performances and were designed to withstand all types of weather.  The design of the interior trusses also accounted for heavy stage equipment, that is often hung from the roof. Roof cantilevers over the front of the stage were also designed to add additional protection from the elements.

The Amp was completed after six months of construction, and has hosted many outdoor concerts and festivals (albeit on a more limited schedule, thanks to the COVID-19) since its opening season in 2019.

A new gathering place for the community

“Designing The Amp at Sam Michael Park was a great honor for Top Level Engineering,” said Kirby Hartle, TLE’s founder and principal. “Designing a place where community members can gather together and enjoy a concert, while also enjoying the great outdoors was really a special challenge for us. Partnering with our friends at HLR Architects was also a great experience, and the resulting structure is naturally beautiful, yet strong. Overall, we could not be prouder of this project!”

To view more photos of this project, visit our portfolio by clicking HERE. Or take a ride out to wild and wonderful West Virginia to visit The Amp at Sam Michael Park, located at 235 Sam Michaels Lane in Harper’s Ferry.