There are a lot of spaces on grounds that provide space for students to gather or hold activities. Among those numerous locations, the McIntire amphitheatre is an interesting case to study for the relationship between space and human behavior. Funded by Paul Goodloe McIntire in 1921, the amphitheatre was built for the purposes of public gathering. The first event held there is the UVa centennial exercises. The amphitheatre includes a 60-foot-stage, a semicircular grass patch and Greek-style hemispherical stairs with a capacity of 2500 people. Behind the stage is the offices of for the UVa Facilities Management team. The stone curb around bottom of stairs and 10-foot-wide walkway were added later, which added more accessibility and thus more dynamic circulation inside the space.
The amphitheatre serves as a multi-functions space now. It is a place for students to meet people, enjoy time on their own, take break between classes on daily basis. The amphitheatre has the best location to converge students between classes. It it in the heart of central ground southwest of the Lawn, surrounded by class buildings from all departments. Many students commute between off-ground houses and classrooms have to walk path this area. With the two popular food trucks with huge lines every day right next to the amphitheatre, it now become students’ favourite place for eating dumplings and pies. Right on top of the amphitheatre are two bus stops that transport hundreds of students everyday. Some students who have a 30 minutes gap between classes chooses to lay on the grass slope of amphitheatre, some take their whole afternoon to study on the stairs.
Stairs facing southwest, most of the time they were fully lit by sunlight. Leaving very small space of shadow on the edge of the stair sphere. While the stage facing northeast are under shadow of the building almost all the time. The shadow of the stage and the building behind stretch on the grass field and move along the sunlight. Observing the site, I found out that nearly no students choose to sit on the stage or on the grass field although a cool space is created. Although the stairs are heated by sunlight sometimes up to a very high temperature, most students still choose to sit on the stairs. Those who tend to have some shadow choose to site under tree canopy on the grass slope above.
A clear temperature changes from the stage to the stairs are produced because the different sunlight duration from the stage to the stairs. The stage always have the lowest temperature while the stairs have the highest. Hot air on the stairs rises up and scatters and the cool airs from the stage fills in. Thus, sitting on the stairs, though hit by the strong sunlight, the wind of natural ventilation cools people down. The two thresholds on two sides of the amphitheatre also create a dramatic air tunnel along the stairs. The stairs thus become a very comfortable zone to sit and relax.
The amphitheatre also serves as the location for special events such as the annual student activity fair, events held by student council and other organizations, performance of school symphony and public speech of celebrities. It also become a place where students and faculties gather for vigil of tragedies happened in the country and in school. Some of those cases happened during night, and electric lighting was provided on the stage. The stairs become auditorium and thus do not need any artificial lights. Large number of students take place the whole stairs, the grass field, the walkway and the grass slopes above in some big events. There was an interesting situation when a man from a local, radical church tried to draw attend and preach in the amphitheatre. Students gather around the amphitheatre naturally after classes and were all irritated by his disrespectful words. At some point, all the students start to sing the Good Old Song holding hands in hands. The chemistry appeared in this place is unbelievable by drawing students around to enjoy and cherish what we have.