Completed in 2001, the Viñoly-designed Kimmel Center in Philadelphia seems too old for growing pains, but today it’s certainly going through something of an awkward phase. In late April, KieranTimberlake released plans to revamp the performing arts center and now some of the details are emerging. BLT Architects have shared a few rendering from their renovation of the rooftop garden into an event space.
This year has been a bit of a roller coaster for the Kimmel, with major highs and lows. Just this past spring that the Center’s chief tenant, the Philadelphia Orchestra, filed for bankruptcy. But a $10 million bequest from the late Leonore Annenberg spurred an international arts festival with a Parisian theme. One leftover from the event, an 81-foot high replica of the Eiffel Tower, still sits beneath the cavernous glass dome. It’s become such a draw that management would probably like to leave it up all year, but it will come down next week. During the festival the cavernous space was taken over by artists and performers, enlivening the interior plaza. Now, the Kimmel is looking for ways to animate the space on a daily basis with cafes that spread out onto the sidewalk, free WiFi, and more freewheeling events.
High above the plaza, sitting atop the Perelman Theater is the Dorrance H. Hamilton Garden. The garden was intended as a respite for the public from city streets and to provide rental income from private parties. But according to Michael Prifti, managing principle of BLT Architects, the barrel vault made the space too hot and the noise that bounced off the glass poured onto the plaza below, making the garden impossible to rent during performances. The new design puts a glass cap over the graden so that the temperature can be controlled and the noise contained. “It had a parapet wall, and what we’ve done is put a crown on top of it. Yet the visual intention is just as strong as ever,” said Prifti. “But it now it can finally can work on its own.” The plaza’s trees will be replaced with smaller movable plants to accommodate a 3000-square-foot space for seating and, of course, dancing.
Viñoly, whose experience with the project hasn’t always been pleasant, offered no comment on the changes.