Page D1.1 . 28 August 2002                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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Kimmel Center Civics

by Michael J. Crosbie

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Philadelphia, designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects, presents to the city ample public space, generous concert halls, and a distinctive profile on the city's grand thoroughfare of Broad Street.

And yet one senses a void. Missing are the elegant details that make architecture come alive and a civic dimension that could transport you to another realm — a celebration of attending a concert and partaking in the life of a city.

The $265 million performing arts center seems to me to have an identity crisis. Seen from blocks away, the Kimmel does not look ready to assume its role as the dazzling host of the city's cultural district. In fact, it is difficult to distinguish its exterior from that of a corporate headquarters or an in-town shopping mall.

The 150-foot- (45-meter-) high barrel-vaulted glass roof shelters the public interior plaza of the Kimmel and its two main music halls. This is grand indeed and is perhaps the best aspect of the building. But its transparency dilutes its power as a civic form. It is not as powerful as, for example, the sweeping, figural arches of Grand Central Terminal seen from New York's Park Avenue.   >>>

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The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects presents a distinctive profile on Philadelphia's Broad Street.
Photo: Roman Viñoly/Rafael Viñoly Architects PC

ArchWeek Image

Under Kimmel's huge glass roof, two concert halls are "objects" in a large indoor plaza.
Photo: Roman Viñoly/Rafael Viñoly Architects PC


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