Klopfenstein Amphitheater - CODAworx

Klopfenstein Amphitheater

Client: City of Marion, Iowa

Location: Marion, IA, United States

Completion date: 2014

Artwork budget: $733,500

Project Team


David Dahlquist

RDG Dahlquist Art Studio


Mike Carol

City of Marion, Iowa

Artist / Architect

Donald G. Scandrett

RDG Dahlquist Art Studio


Reinaldo Correa

RDG Planning & Design

Lighting Designer

Emlyn Altman

RDG Planning & Design

Structural Engineer

Brad Stork

Charles Saul Engineering, Inc

Electrical Engineer

Mike Chambers

RDG Planning & Design

Landscape Architect

Mike Bell

RDG Planning & Design

Mechanical Engineer

Mark Conway

RDG Planning & Design

General Contractor

John Huk

Kleiman Construction, Inc.


Brock Steinke

Trey Electric


Kyle Keifer

Keystone Glass Company


The Klopfenstein Amphitheater for the Performing Arts located in Marion, Iowa is a dramatic synthesis of art and architecture, sensitively designed in context with the adjacent Arts and Environment Center, integrated within the surrounding natural landscape of Lowe Park. The amphitheater has become a new regional cultural landmark. The comprehensive installation combines many sculptural materials and processes in the monumental structure. The amphitheater measures over 90ft x 60ft x 30ft within an informal bowl, or open lawn, able to accommodate up to 1500 people.


The goal of the project was to create a dynamic sculptural icon that would become a destination, attracting visitors to the park. The unique performance venue functions in many ways. The dynamic cantilever, anchored in bedrock over 30 feet deep, extends over 60 feet in length, reaching out to create a powerful perspective for the audience. Based on indigenous bur oaks, the monumental sculptural canopy represents a contemporary expression of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, recalling period Tiffany ornamentation and Dirk Van Erp copper lamps. Made of over 60 tons of Corten weathering steel, the amphitheater also incorporates state-of-the-art LED lighting, native limestone, and Italian mosaic glass tile. The tile frieze that wraps the stage depicts a prairie fire of complimentary color and texture. A curtain wall of glass forms the stage backdrop, reflecting sound and providing excellent acoustics. Images of prairie grass are highlighted by color changing LED illumination. The multi-purpose space is host to plays, individual musicians to big-bands, as well as educational programming and weddings, bathed in the warm amber light of the canopy at night.


A meaningful collaboration took place between the community and many professional disciplines including artists, architects, landscape architects, lighting designers, engineers, and fabricators. The project began with public input, establishing a dialogue about nature, the park, the integration of art, and the design of a functional performance space. The stage and canopy had to create a striking vertical presence, able to be seen from the approaching highway. Through a design-build process, the multi-disciplinary team worked with the owner to interview and select the best steel fabricator to assist from the earliest concept through fabrication and installation. Scale was a significant factor for the artwork. The size of the structure called for an incredible back and forth between all disciplines to realize the dynamic sculptural intensity. A unique system between footing/foundation, bolt plates, and welds to Corten plate steel was developed. A scale model of steel was placed on top of CNC-routed then photographed from a variety of perspectives in order to understand the consequences of scale in context with the surrounding natural environment. Artist and architects through RDG Dahlquist Art Studio facilitated the process.

Additional Information

The amphitheater has become part of the identity of the community. If use is a measurement of success, the venue is now booked for weddings, musical performances, festivals, and other functions nearly a year in advance.