Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

A block-long barrel vault of glass and steel shelters the two volumes that contain the main performance venues of the Center as well as the interstitial spaces that simultaneously serve as an expansive pre-function lobby and as a “Commonwealth Plaza” that serves the public throughout the day.

For the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Rafael Viñoly Architects was tasked with providing a state-of-the-art home for the Philadelphia Orchestra, a flexible theater for multiple types of performances, and a major new public space for the city of Philadelphia on a single site. Located along the Avenue of the Arts cultural corridor on Broad Street, the Kimmel Center also furthers the revitalization of this primary north–south axis in the downtown area. Chosen after developing 13 alternative schemes that explored variations in the placement of halls, lobbies, and event spaces, the design treats the main program components as freestanding buildings on a vast indoor space, Commonwealth Plaza, enclosed by a brick, steel, and concrete perimeter building and topped by a large steel-and-glass barrel vault roof that fills the interior with natural light.

The main symphony hall, the 2,500-seat Verizon Hall, applies the acoustic principles of a cello on a vast scale, creating a mahogany-wrapped music space shaped like the body of the instrument. A series of operable doors augment the naturally resonant shape by allowing sound to flow into reverberation chambers that occupy the 4.88-meter-wide (16-foot) interstitial spaces between the Verizon Hall enclosure and its interior. A configurable acoustic canopy above the stage directs sound energy out to the audience while allowing the musicians to hear what they play clearly. The Perelman Theater, an intimate, flexible recital hall, can accommodate 650 people for cultural performances and other events. Its turntable stage enables transformation from a conventional proscenium to a smaller stage with a concert shell and wraparound seating. A winter garden tops the theater and features striking views of the Kimmel Center interior and the city skyline.

Commonwealth Plaza is conceived as a sheltered extension of the sidewalk and encourages the fabric of the city to flow into the complex where cafés, free performances, dramatic design, and people who visit combine to create a dynamic civic experience.

The Center features a retail shop as well as multiple food service outlets in support of creating a lively space, even at non-event times. Rehearsal and educational spaces are distributed throughout the two hall buildings and on the ground level.