Architect Rafael Viñoly is set to make his mark on Philadelphia, PA, when The Kimmel Center (above) opens in December 2001 on Philadelphia’s burgeoning Avenue of the Arts. This $265 million project sits on an entire city block, a 2.3 acre lot at Broad and Spruce Streets, and includes two major venues, the 2,500-seat Verizon Hall, the new home for the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the 650-seat Perelman Theatre.

The stunning design concept links these two venues with an indoor plaza, then sweepingly cover the entire complex with a soaring glass vault, adding not only a new arts center to the city, but also a strong architectural statement. Viñoly was joined by acoustician Russell Johnson of Artec Consultants, as well as William G. Rouse III, chairman of RPAC (Regional Performing Arts Center), and Dick Smoot, president of the Philadelphia Orchestra, at a press conference at Viñoly’s offices in New York City on May 2, 2001. "The challenge," said Rouse, "was to create a space for the people with public spaces. We want Philadelphians, and even Main Line mommies, to come and enjoy it as theirs. We want them to love and relish the building."

Hailed as the first great performing arts center of the 21st century, The Kimmel Center adds a new architectural splash to a 300 year old city, and provides a much-needed new home for orchestra, which just celebrated its 100th birthday. Johnson, who has designed the acoustics for many of the world’s finest concert halls, provided acoustic consulting for both venues at The Kimmel Center, while Tom Clark of Artec, designed the sound and communications systems. One of their challenges was conquering the noise and vibrations from the nearby subway, and such things as air-conditioning.

"Flexibility, versatility, and adjustability are the key words," said Johnson in reference to Verizon Hall (interior view below). "These elements are at the heart of Artec’s recipe for good acoustics." This is especially true here, for a room that will be used for a wide range of musical formats and can be tailored specifically for each.

The center of Johnson’s system is a canopy system that can be lowered to 32’ over the stage or raised as high as 64’, making a dramatic difference in the acoustics. It is fitted with sound and lighting positions. In addition, remote control panels adjust the width of the stage. The size of the concert platform can also be adjusted. Acoustic adjustment chambers (71’ high by 16’ deep) surround the audience seating on all levels of the hall.

The smaller Perelman Theatre, designed for dance, theatre, and recitals, has a stage turntable (sketch below) with a 37’ radius revolve, as well as a sprung dance floor measuring 83’ wide x 40’ deep. The grid sits 74’6" above the stage.

In the audience at the press conference was Richard Pilbrow of Theatre Consultants, who was introduced as the "foil between Russell and Rafael." In any project of this scale, there is always a lot of give and take between the architects and the consultants, but with the three R’s – Rafael, Russell, and Richard – The Kimmel Center is bound to be a winner!

all images © Rafael Viñoly Architects PC