Glazing Takes the Stage in Kimmel Center Renovations

After a year of renovations that included glass as one of the show-stopping design elements, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia reopened the Dorrance H. Hamilton rooftop garden to the public yesterday. Designed by BLT Architects, the project incorporates a 4,200-square-foot, point-supported, insulating glass structural wall, custom designed point-supported fittings and 2,200 of skylights constructed with electrochromic glazing. APG International served as the contract glazier for the project.

One of the rooftop garden’s enhanced features is the new acoustically treated glass box structure, designed to provide year-round climate and sound control for rental use of the space. It also continues to showcase the views of the Kimmel Center’s glass vaulted dome, venues and public spaces, and Philadelphia’s Avenue of the Arts.

“It was important to us that the rooftop garden retain its openness and elevation above the Perelman Theater while we repurposed the space,” says Anne Ewers, president and CEO of the Kimmel Center. “Its hot, uncomfortable environment from May through September forced the Kimmel Center to turn away more than 1,000 annual rental inquiries per year.”

To help create year-round, usable space, architects chose to work with electrochromic glass from SAGE, which can go from fully transparent to fully tinted by flipping a switch.

“We initially designed in motorized shades that would be pulled during the hot times of the day because we knew the solar load would be so intense,” says Donna Lisle of BLT Architects. “But motorized shades are expensive, often break or won’t close evenly, and you can’t see out through them.”

She continues, “True to the vision of the original design, the glass enclosure allows uninterrupted views of the city – a ‘sky-room.’ The technical composition was engineered to provide a solution to the overwhelming acoustic and thermal issues present in the open space, allowing the Kimmel Center to fully utilize the space year-round.”

Edward Z. Zaucha, CEO of APG International, says as a result of his company’s international operations, they are quite familiar with many innovative products being offered around the world. “It gave us great pleasure to recommend a significant technologically advanced product (electrochromic glass) for theKimmelCenter, which was the perfect solution to the environmental concerns and design intent of the project,” says Zaucha. “SAGE helped us provide a state-of-the-art solution for resolving the solar control challenges while maintaining the stunning visuals from this room.”

The Kimmel Center itself is no stranger to glass. Designed by Rafael Vinoly Architects, the center was built in 2001 and features 4,100 unitized glazing panels.