Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
The Kimmel Center, home to the Philadelphia Orchestra and five other performing arts companies, occupies a full city block in downtown Philadelphia in the transitional zone between the high-rise towers of Center City to the north and the residential neighborhoods of South Philadelphia.
The east-facing main facade fronts Broad Street, the city's
major north-south axis, part of a cultural district designated the
Avenue of the Arts. To maintain the scale of the surrounding
residential and cultural buildings, the brick walls rise
approximately to the height of the neighboring University of the
Arts building to the south.
The first orchestra I ever knew was The Philadelphia Orchestra, under Stokowski, which I heard on my father's records. He was involved professionally with music in Uruguay and then in Argentina, where he ran the Teatro Colón, and I myself originally trained for a career as a pianist. So it appealed to me to build a place for The Philadephia Orchestra, for which I retain an adulation that dates back to childhood.
The largely transparent ground level, allows passersby to see
into the public plaza. Two glass-encased elevators at the front of
the Center allow access to a third-floor gourmet restaurant and the
The main components,"two jewels in a glass case," Verizon Hall and Perelman Theater, are treated as complete, free-standing buildings. Perelman Theater, with its curved facade, is placed off-axis toward the front of the site on Broad Street, while Verizon Hall, with its polygonal exterior, is centered at the far end. The spaces between and around the two buildings form an indoor plaza, top-lit by day through an immense barrel vault roof of folded plate glass.
Commonwealth Plaza, a sheltered extension of the sidewalk,
encourages the fabric of the city to flow into the complex where
cafés, free performances, spectacular architecture, and the people
who visit combine to create a dynamic civic experience.
A winter garden with a grid of trees tops the Perelman Theater, offering a detailed look at the roof and striking views of the lobby and surrounding cityscape.
Inspired by the construction of a cello, Verizon Hall is
conceived as a resonating chamber for sound, with curved geometries
and mahogany and makore finishes that resemble the shape and
texture of the instrument. The orchestra is situated in the hall in
the same location as a cello's bridge, where the strings connect to
the body of the cello to produce the sound.
I used to play the cello, and there is a very direct connection between playing the instrument and creating a space like Verizon Hall. When making music, the intellectual and emotional aspects of playing must be connected to the kinetic, muscular efforts involved. They're the same thing. And the best architecture comes from knowing they're the same.
By contrast, the Perelman Theatre is a metal-clad flexible space within the orthogonal form of a cube. A turntable stage enables transformation from a conventional proscenium to a smaller stage with a concert shell and wraparound seating. Seating is mounted on hydraulic risers; the seats can be removed and the risers lowered to create a ballroom floor or banquet hall.
Facts about Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
2,500 seat Verizon Orchestra Hall
650 seat Perelman Recital Theatre
Rafael Viñoly Architects PC
Artec Consultants Inc.
Dewhurst Macfarlane and Partners
Goldreich Engineering, PC M/E/P
Claude R. Engle Lighting Consultant
McClymont and Rak
LF Driscoll/ Artis T Ore Joint Venture
Last updated: December 19, 2013
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