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Installing the Impossible: Crystal Bridges Museum Amphitheater

By February 1, 2022December 22nd, 2022LEARN
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The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, is located in the thick of a lush forest. The stream running through the heart of the museum is dammed to create a pond in the middle of the estate. The location is ideal for peaceful seclusion and ambiance. It also creates quite a puzzle for construction additions due to the limited access.

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The amphitheater on the East bank of the lake was approved for a tension structure addition to provide shade and comfort to the seating area. Since the project site was surrounded by buildings, water, and trees without nearby access roads for cranes, an alternative solution was required.

Enclos Tension Structures was ready for the task. With an experienced Pre-construction team, Enclos worked tirelessly with Flintco Construction on several logistic iterations. They ultimately developed a unique erection sequence utilizing collapsible lift equipment that could navigate the winding pedestrian trails through the woods and into the museum courtyard area.

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Techniques using unconventional floatation devices to cross the water with frame components proved effective and safe. A large crane was brought in at the North access road, where the canopy’s steel frame components were flown over the existing museum and down to the floating barge in the water. Luke Wanzer of Flintco manually paddled the steel components over to the amphitheater area, where the spider crane was able to pick and place the components into their appropriate positions.

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After the frame was secured, the laminated PTFE mesh membrane was installed. The fabric was chosen for its high translucency and ability to see some blue sky through the open mesh while simultaneously providing waterproof protection for the guests below with the clear laminated layers. This new tension structure designed by Safdie Architects (with Buro Happold as the Engineer of Record) will bring additional functionality and charm to the already fascinating feat of architecture at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Before any project is deemed impossible, run it by Enclos. Our qualified team with years of experience and engineering creativity can often turn the impossible into the accomplished!

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