The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
260 South Broad Street, on the Avenue of the Arts
Philadelphia, PA 19102
For quite some time, the main concert hall in Philadelphia was the Academy of Music. The building, built in 1857, was showing signs of its age, and had always suffered from some less-than-ideal acoustics. In 1987, the Philadelphia Orchestra started a plan to construct a new state-of-the-art concert hall. Around the same time, Mayor Ed Rendell and other city leaders were working on a plan to create a new permanent arts center for the city's arts organizations and touring companies. These plans came together nicely in 1996, using the property that the Orchestra had obtained at Broad and Spruce Streets. The Regional Performing Arts Center (RPAC) was created to supervise the completion of the combined plans; architect Rafael Viñoly's concept, which was unveiled in the fall of 1997, called for a dramatic space to compliment the many outstanding groups that would be in residence there.
Demolition began on September 15, 1998, with new construction beginning November 12 of the same year. On September 11, 2000, people walking by the Park Hyatt, along with Patti LaBelle, Pat Croce, the Phillie Phanatic, and someone dressed up as Ben Franklin, were invited to test the different auditorium seats that were being considered for the finished venues (called the "Phanny Test"). The Gala Premiere for the Kimmel Center (black tie, of course) took place on December 14 and 15 of 2001, with performances by Sir Elton John, pianist Andre Watts, opera singers Denyce Graves and Frederica von Stade, and the Philadelphia Orchestra with Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, and Emanuel Ax.
Venues:The new venue for the Philadelphia Orchestra and Peter Nero and the Philly Pops.
Houses 2500 seats on four seating levels. The outside of the hall is covered with Makore (African cherry) wood panels, while the interior, which is shaped like a cello, uses mahogany for all wood surfaces. Acoustic features include a movable concert ceiling above the stage and adjustable acoustic chambers surrounding the audience. The acoustics in general are much better than those in the Academy of Music, which is renowned for its lack of reverberation. It will take a little while for the Orchestra to regain its signature sound in this new space, since so much of its rich sound came from having to compensate for the acoustic qualities of the Academy.
Home to resident companies PHILADANCO, The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and American Theater Arts for Youth.
Houses 650 seats. The style of Perelman Theater is somewhat opposite that of Verizon Hall; where the concert hall is curved and organic, with dark rich wood tones, the theater is linear, filled with metallic accents. The stage is a turntable stage, allowing easy conversion between a traditional proscenium stage and an open arena with seating surrounding the stage.
The Academy of Music, while not physically in the Kimmel Center building, will be managed by the same parent organization, RPAC. It's currently under renovation, and will be home to the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Opera Company of Philadelphia (2900 seats)
Verizon Hall and Perelman Theater are separate buildings surrounded by a glass-and-steel barrel roof, creating a large atrium-style plaza between them. Public spaces in the Kimmel Center include the Merck Arts Education Center, Commonwealth Plaza, a rooftop garden, Cadence (a restaurant serving contemporary French brasserie cuisine), a bar and café, and the ever-present gift shop.
Cost: $265 million
Area: 429,085 square feet
29,054 total cubic yards of concrete (equivalent to 92 miles of 5-foot wide sidewalk)
317,000 masonry blocks
3,700 total tons of structural steel
61,048 linear feet of structural steel supporting the glass barrel roof
2,281 tons of rebar (reinforcing steel bars)
1,400 tons of steel in the arches supporting the glass end walls
156,677 square feet (3.6 acres) of glass glazing
9,300 gallons (860,000 square feet) of paint
2.5 miles (13,184 linear feet) of handrails
144 bathroom fixtures (86 for women, 58 for men)
Sources: My own visits there, and http://www.kimmelcenter.org