Kimmel Center For The Performing Arts

by | 06. Sep 2012

Cultural | Feature

Photo: Jeff Goldberg


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.


Photo: Roman Viñoly


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.
/Rafael Viñoly

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 rooftop garden.


Photo: Roman Viñoly


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.


Photo: Roman Viñoly



Photo: Roman Viñoly



Photo: Roman Viñoly



Photo: Roman Viñoly


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.


Photo: Jeff Goldberg



Sketch courtesy Rafael Viñoly Architects

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.


Photo: Roman Viñoly



Photo: Roman Viñoly


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.
/Rafael Viñoly

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.


Drawing courtesy Rafael Viñoly ArchitectsSite Plan



Drawing courtesy Rafael Viñoly ArchitectsGround Floor Plan


Drawing courtesy Rafael Viñoly ArchitectsTypical Floor Plan


Drawing courtesy Rafael Viñoly ArchitectsLongitudinal Section



CITY Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
ARCHITECT Rafael Viñoly