Santa Fe Opera Theater

Sante Fe, New Mexico

The design for this open-air theater replaced the existing opera structure on the site, with the creation of a very elegant and iconic design and technically sophisticated enlarged opera hall.

The roof’s waved form is the design’s signature element suspended from a skeletal structure of white steel masts and tension rods, it subtly echoes the profile of the surrounding mountains and evokes the character of a tent. The orchestra and balcony roofs act as giant acoustical reflector that parallels the movement of sound outward from the stage toward the seating. A unique structural approach was developed to rest the new roof, which is both larger and heavier than the previous one, on the original concrete “Star” columns that frame the stage. A system of eight steel masts and twenty-six tension rods, which minimizes the weight of the roof structure, carries its dead load of 435 tons onto the Star columns.

A new balcony structure echoes the sweeping form of the main roof, and its cantilevered structure provides unobstructed sight lines. Wind splitter rails along the roof edges and wind baffle along the south side of the theater were added in response to microclimate on the site, to diffuse the strongest winds and rain and decrease weather-related distractions during performances.

Damyanti was responsible for development, construction and delivery of the Santa Fe Opera Project campus, implementing the project design. Satisfying clients’ aspirations on a tight budget required careful consideration of the materials and construction systems. The process included understanding, analyzing and incorporating the existing architectural and structural elements of the building.

The rugged site also provided challenges for access and parking layout. Water scarcity in the region required planting of hardy drought resistant plants as well as incorporating water harvesting, storage and re-use of gray water for irrigation. A new wing for Rehearsal Hall was added in 2001. It is functioning as a year around venue for small chamber music to master classes as well as event space.

The core team The core team during construction included Damyanti, Dierdre Burns (Manhattan Construction Co.), Ann Quarels (Mechanical, Electrical Engineers) and Chrystalla Kartambi (Arup Engineers), four women for getting it built on time. Local paper Santa Fe Reporter interviewed the team on construction site.