artist heather clark, in collaboration with massachusetts institute of technology’s digital structures research group, has launched ‘sky stage’, a multifunctional community arts and performance space. sky stage temporarily transforms a boarded property in frederick — maryland’s downtown historic district — into an interactive building-scale public art work.





the building itself dates back to the pre-revolutionary war and was originally used as a factory to construct gun parts. in 2010 a fire severely damaged the structure, causing the collapse of the entire second story. since then the building has sat dormant — burned and boarded up. hopeful that she could turn the site around, artist heather clark approached the owner with the idea of transforming the stunning brick architecture into a multi-purpose community theater and art installation that would sit at the heart of the town. a collaborative effort between a variety of local bodies has since resulted in the opening of the sky stage

the remaining shell had been boarded up ever since a fire ravaged the building in 2010
(top) image by bill adkins



the centerpiece of sky stage is a digitally-designed two story sculpture with ribbons of drought-resistant plants that twist and wind through a wooden lattice and the building’s doors and windows. state of the art green roof technology has been modified to support the spiraling plants, while rainwater collected from an adjacent roof and stored in a cistern is used to irrigate the plants and trees. clark collaborated with the massachusetts institute of technology’s digital structures research group who computationally designed and engineered the sculpture’s complex wooden lattice with custom geometry-generating algorithms. professor caitlin mueller and research fellow kam-ming mark tam led the engineering effort.

the giant green installation snakes around and throught the stone walls of the theater
image by jason turner



the stepped wooden amphitheater is capable of holding audiences of up to 140, and is sheltered by a collection of transplanted trees that emerge from the seating, providing a leafy canopy overhead. engaging in an ongoing conversation with the members of the public, sky stage offers a completely free program of events including drama, music, children’s story time, art classes, dance, history, literature and film, and encourages locals to suggest new and innovative ways to make use of the new space.

frederick arts council is overseeing the day-to-day operations of the theater in partnership with americorps. sky stage will be open through july 2017.

state of the art green roof technology has been modified to support the spiraling plants.
image by bill green


sky stage temporarily transforms a boarded property in frederick, maryland’s downtown historic district

in september 2016, the plywood boards on the doors and windows were removed to reveal a center for arts and culture

MIT’s digital structures research group computationally designed and engineered the complex wooden lattice 

sky stage’s open-air theater seats an audience of 140 people among trees
image by bill green 

local residents are encouraged to suggest uses for the new space

rainwater is collected from an adjacent roof and stored in a cistern to irrigate the plants and trees
image by sarah jo pixely

working with the public, sky stage offers drama, music, art classes, dance, history, literature, and film screenings

the original building was gutted by a severe fire
image by jim hanann



designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: peter corboy | designboom


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