Verdant West Riverfront Park, including the Ascend Amphitheater, defines the northern river edge of Nashville’s Central Business district, improving land that had formerly been a waste-energy plant. Hawkins Partners designed the park based on a 2013 Master Plan that sought to determine the best use of this 12 acres of waterfront, celebrating Nashville as Music City and creating an open park immediately next to downtown, with a multi-level continuous greenway and large civic green. The 6,500 person amphitheater is its defining structure while the mile-long promenade seamlessly integrates needed flood walls into the city’s infrastructure. We planned the spaces as outdoor adventures for all ages, incorporating fountains, slide gardens and climbing nets, recalling the activity of the long- departed Front Street wharf.
Our design inspiration was the Cumberland River itself and this location within a bend of the river, through the carved out limestone bluffs, remnant sand bars along its bends, and its industrial history. These elements came together as references during the design process: sinuous curves throughout the park, the multi-coursed limestone walls and building faces, and the earth-toned pavements of regional aggregates. The site walls and architecture feel as if they are being carved out of the earth, including the abandoned gantry cranes from the barge industry and adjacent steel structured bridges, the forms of which are echoed in the amphitheater’s steel skeleton, the open roof structures of the pavilions and in the rebar fence and railing designs.