It’s a fitting end to a years-long saga full of twists, turns, heartbreak, and potential calamity. Louis Kahn’s floating music barge for the American Wind Symphony Orchestra (AWSO), Point Counterpoint II, finally has a forever home.
As Architectural Record first broke, the barge is being towed to Philadelphia and restored as part of the conversion of the 1917 Delaware Power Station into a future arts center; it’s expected to anchor the complex’s music program when it opens in 2022.
AWSO founder Robert Austin Boudreau was personal friends with Kahn and, after the first Point Counterpoint, a barge incapable of moving on its own, was scuttled, approached the architect about designing a replacement. Kahn’s Point Counterpoint II set sail in 1976, two years after his death, for a blockbuster 76-city concert tour timed for the Bicentennial. The orchestra would call the floating concert hall its home until 2017, when Boudreau, looking to retire as AWSO director and unable to afford the barge’s maintenance costs, put the boat out to bid.
Without a buyer lined up, the 196-foot-long barge, topped with a hydraulic steel clamshell that rises 25 feet to reveal the central performance space, faced demolition. Musicians and preservationists around the country, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma, rallied for the floating venue’s existence, but few viable leads panned out. After a bidding war between officials in Kingston, New York, and Palm Beach County, Florida, the barge was towed south to roost in the Sunshine State. However, plans to convert Point Counterpoint II into a floating music school for poor children along Lake Okeechobee seemingly fell through and the barge was going to be decommissioned.
That’s when, according to Architectural Record, a group in Sag Harbor, New York, heard about the boat’s plight and connected with Dean Adler, CEO of Lubert-Adler Real Estate Funds, who is redeveloping the Delaware Power Station. Coincidentally, the new arts complex was in need of a centerpiece performance venue.
Now, the 43-year-old barge (complete with its own museum, to boot) has been towed to a shipyard in North Carolina for repairs before it will move to its permanent home on the Delaware River.