A Swedish proverb tells us that a life without love is like a year without summer. Who better, then, to comment on the joy of our favorite season than a country that experiences never-ending midsummer days when the sun never sets? The summer solstice is fast approaching, and our yearly anticipation of the sultry, dog days is reaching an all time high. Our plans for the inevitable rooftop gatherings are in place, our outdoor event lists have been made, and bathing suits and sun hats have been purchased. Summer fun, we’re ready for you.
In honor of the long, sun-drenched days ahead, we thought we’d take a look at some of the most amazing open-air play spaces in the world. From the largest natural amphitheater in America, surrounded by some of The West’s most perfect picnic spots, to stunning forest theaters to a stage jutting into the sea along the rugged coast of Cornwall, click through to check out showstopping outdoor stages that have us wishing summer would last forever. Nominate your local favorites in the comments below!
Cloud Tower by the next ENTERprise — Vienna, Austria
Image credit: Lukas Schaller via dezeen
On the romantic grounds of the Schloss Grafenegg, a 13th-century castle, the Cloud Tower serves as an open-air stage during the summer festival season, and as an extra-large gazebo-like stopover for excursionists and flaneurs to enjoy homemade Apfelstrudel from the castle’s café.
Minack Theatre — Cornwall, England
Appropriately situated a few miles from Land’s End in Cornwall, England, Minack Theatre certainly wins the award for most stunning location. As legend has it, after local villagers staged Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a local meadow, a Miss Rowena Cade offered her seaside garden as a more suitable location. Miss Cade and her gardener “made a terrace and rough seating, hauling materials down from the house or up via the winding path from the beach below. In 1932, The Tempest was performed with the sea as a dramatic backdrop, to great success.”
Concha Acústica at SMU by Oscar Niemeyer – Brasília, Brazil
Image credit: CamilaF
When asked about Brazil’s grandfather of architecture, Oscar Niemeyer, poet Ferreira Gullar proclaims, “It isn’t enough to solve people’s social problems. They need beauty. Oscar makes life more beautiful.” Case in point: this elegant bandshell.
The Wild Beast Pavilion at CalArts by Hodgetts+Fung — Valencia, California
Image credit: Tom Bonner via Architectural Record
Designed by musician turned architect Craig Hodgetts and his partner, Hsinming Fung, the project’s concept is based on the words of avant-garde composer Morton Feldman, who said, “I am interested in how the wild beast lives in the jungle, not in the zoo.” If you were wondering, this indoor/ outdoor pavilion is meant to be the jungle — metaphorically speaking, of course.
Summer Theatre by Kadarik Tüür Arhitektid — Tallinn, Estonia
Image credit: KTA
If your favorite Swedish modernist architect and Shakespeares’ Titania, Queen of the Fairies, had a lovechild, surely it would look like this.
The Greek Theatre by OMA — Syracuse, Sicily
Designed by Rem Koolhaas’ OMA, the modern update of this ancient Sicilian amphitheater is gorgeous to say the least.
The Hollywood Bowl by Allied Architects and Hodgetts+Fung — Los Angeles, California
The largest natural amphitheater in the United States, The Hollywood Bowl also boasts woodland picnic spots and stunning views of the sun-faded Hollywood Hills at night.
The Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts by Dewberry & Davis — Wolf Trap, Virginia
Three words: indoor outdoor perfection.
Meadow Pavilion at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts by — Wolf Trap, Virginia
Image credit: Gregory Maxwell
What’s better than a meadow pavilion in a national park named Wolf Trap?
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Theatre by Zhang Yimou — Lijiang, China
Image credit: Sarah Jamerson
Stiff competition for Cornwall’s stunning seaside stage, Lijiang’s outdoor theater is set against the stunning backdrop of Snow Mountain and is famous for an annual show demonstrating the traditions and lifestyles of the Naxi, Yi, and Bai peoples of the area. Fun fact: The production was designed by Zhang Yimou of House of Flying Daggers fame.
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre — London, England
Image credit: MH Federation
Situated in one of London’s Royal Parks, the open air theater is home to the New Shakespeare Company. Their delightful site tells us what to expect: “each night an incomparable atmosphere is created by the buzz of people enjoying their theatregoing in every sense: people setting up hampers on the picnic lawn, filling their glasses with wine or drinking Pimms in the bar as the fairy lights twinkle in the trees.”
Red Rocks Amphitheater — Morrison, Colorado
A dramatic, naturally formed amphitheater that takes the “Rocky Mountain High” concept to another level entirely.
Concha Acústica by Glen Howard Small — Managua, Nicaragua
Image credit: Small at Large
The giant white conch shell of a stage offers a not-so-subtle nod to the sea and summer.
Band shell in Jardins do Palácio de Cristal — Porto, Portugal
Image credit: Júlio Reis
The most picturesque little bandshell we’ve ever seen.
The High Line’s Urban Theater by James Corner Field Operations with Diller + Scofidio — New York City, New York
Image credit: neild
The most original outdoor theater concept we’ve ever seen, The High Line’s Urban Theater brilliantly reinterprets the New York City street as a stage.