Inaugural Libbey Bowl Concert in 1957
Originally designed by renowned architects Austen Pierpont and Roy Wilson, Ojai Festival Bowl was built in what was then know as Civic Center Park for a total construction cost of approximately $12,000. By 1957 construction of the bowl was complete in time for that year’s Ojai music festival which featured the west coast performance of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land, conducted by Copland himself. The venue quickly became know as an almost magical place to enjoy live performances in harmony with the surrounding nature. In fact, the original bowl was so loved by the citizens of Ojai that its image is prominently featured on Ojai’s city seal. Over the years the bowl has hosted countless live performances by some of the most influential artists in the world.
Despite being much loved by the citizens of Ojai, as the Libbey Bowl was approaching her 50th anniversary much of the original wood structure was showing the ill affects of existing in its damp environment for so long. It was decided that the best way to save this much beloved venue was to replace the rotting wooden structure with a new building constructed of concrete and steal. The citizens of Ojai turned to former mayor, and renowned architect, David Bury to design the new structure for Libbey Bowl. Bury’s primary goal was to build a new structure that was reverent to the original design, while supporting the required infrastructure to support modern live performances. The approximately $4 million in funding was raised by a community-based “Build The Bowl” campaign. After the 2010 Music Festival, the original structure was removed to make room for the new one. The construction of the new structure took almost one year and was finished in June of 2011 just in time for the Ojai Music Festival that year.
In his architectural review of the new bowl structure for the Los Angles Times, Christopher Hawthorne wrote “Bury’s charge was essentially to keep that long list of changes as inconspicuous as possible. (Where the design is most faithful to the old bowl is around the stage area, where to the naked eye the rebuilt band shell is nearly indistinguishable from the old one; the backstage facilities are more utilitarian and contemporary but also mostly hidden from public view.) His success in doing so makes the new Libbey Bowl a classical-music version of a retro baseball stadium, where spacious suites and modern facilities are cloaked in a layer of familiar architectural form.”