Emails received by PennPraxis project leaders, as well as by Inquirer columnist Chris Satullo in response to his writing on reimagining the Kimmel Center public space.
Dear Mr. Satullo:
Years ago, the Mercantile Library on 10th Strret (this was before it moved around the corner onto Chestnut Street) had a chess room that was always well attended. On Saturdays, they held "10-second round robin" tournaments. Ten cents to participate, don't know if there were any prizes for winners, I never won enough games to find out.
I recently bought 10 sets (heavy, tournament quality) at www.wholesalechess.com (it might be www.wholesale-chess.com) for about $200, so it's not terribly expensive to do, although you will need tables and chairs, but perhaps, perhaps, no supervision.
If this is of any interest, there might also be interest in a cards room or bridge only room. I'm thinking of activities that are relatively quiet as to not disturb others. And although I say "room", I guess I really mean "space."
Chris: I visit the Kimmel frequently for Philly Orchestra concerts.
Cafe near entrance, seen from street (through glass walls?)
Plants, trees (plenty of sun should keep them healthy)
Build another stairway from 2nd floor or widen existing one. Post concert surge is dangerous if 2000 people must exit in emergencies
Yes to more seating areas, some carpeting, low lamp lighting, small clusters BUT keep in mind those same 2000+ concert goers must have space to move easily and safely, especially after programs.
Glass wall would be good, but perhaps the architect had potential terrorist attacks in mind after the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11. Thus the granite, brick walls?
Watch that we don't clutter the space up.
Don't put box office outside. We are "Community Rush" people and don't want to stand an hour in rain/ snow/ heat/ cold!
Get rid of the horrible large metal sculpture on second level. But keep good art work and add to it esp. on 1st level
My slightly belated suggestion to make the Kimmel more appealing:
The wooden wall of the Verizon Hall was interesting at first, but after a while, one hardly sees it. The high, dark wall of the Perelmen is just depressing. However, consider them hung with huge silk (silk has the best and most brilliant colors) banners; banners that would change from time to time, either abstractions or more representational ones. Art schools could hold competitions. Famous composers and musicians could be featured . Just remember what the flags have done for the parkway. Because there is always quite a lot of air moving under the glass dome, the banners would always be rippling, and eye-catching and lend an elan to the place which now looks rather dull and sterile, all in all.
I also strongly endorse the "cozy spots" mentioned by a few others. Those round things to sit on are space-saving, I guess, but not at all conducive to conversation and not very comfortable.
And the food. The minimal offerings in Commonwealth Plaza are perhaps appealing to " the ladies who lunch", but that's about it. I've enjoyed it, but its range is very limited. How about something more like the street food that people enjoy just outside the doors. Not everything sold from the trucks and carts is good, but quite a bit of it is. And it's familiar, and within a reasonable price range.
The price of coffee is ridiculous. I know it says refills, but who has time to drink more than one cup of boiling hot coffee during intermissions?.
I have had one meal at the balcony restaurant. The food was indifferent , the service rude and the prices quite silly, given what I got. Improve that a lot, so folks who want to be more upscale can get a nice meal, and put some different food downstairs.
Inside the "cello" is fine, although those red plush seats are awfully sticky-grabby if you are wearing wool, indeed anything other than silk.
Inside the Perelman is comfortable, but rather ugly; that pistachio coor might be reconsidered when the upholstery needs to be changed. Rich blue??
thank you for your attention and I hope this interests the decision makers.
Anne Constant Ewing
Chris, thanks for helping lead the discussion about improving the public spaces of the Kimmel Center. I've been following the story, but unfortunately could not attend any of the public forums, and just wanted to send you an idea or two I have for the Center:
Basically, the Kimmel has always reminded me of the National Theatre complex situated on the South Bank of the Thames in London, where three theaters share a common lobby/interior public space. Even though that complex is a 1960s brutalist concrete bunker of a building, its shared lobby space is warm and inviting, mostly from careful design. It is carpeted throughout in warm orange/red scheme (at least it was when I was there last), and at its center it features a sunken "living" room, probably 50 ft square, that looks straight out of the Brady Bunch. Within the "living room" are dozens of couches that provide seating, end tables, and even table lamps - the whole thing is as cozy as can be. There are tons of art on the walls, advertisements for plays and other goings-ons, and several restaurants and cafes branch off of the space. (One of these has outdoor dining outside the building that overlooks the river). However, the best is that during intermissions, there are several ice cream vendors who sell small Dixie-Cups of ice cream - a perfect snack for 10 minutes.
Though the Kimmel Center is a much larger and taller space, it could use the National Theatre as inspiration. Imagine the whole interior carpeted in warm tones, with broad steps leading into a sunken space filled with couches, rocking chairs, and warm lamplight - all with views of that gorgeous barrel vaulted ceiling. That's a place to gather and eat your ice cream!
Reading some of the suggestions about renovating the Kimmel Center's Plaza" and reflecting upon my own, it seems a good "agenda" model would be to capture the essence of the amenities and ambiance that 5 star hotels offer/provide to patrons throughout the lobby floor and mezzanine levels.
Typically, these include a variety of socializing venues, particularly both fine and bistro dining rooms/areas, open lounge areas with a tastefully stocked bar and another for coffee and light snacks, etc. Interspersed among these are comfortable, nicely lighted seating areas that are so arranged to enhance conversation.
When the lobby is at street level, often the fine dining and/or bistro is so located such that passers-by can take a quick "peak" and immediately sense a warm, welcoming environment. For the Kimmel, a nice cafe, perhaps with wifi availability, might fit this aspect as well.
Re the "wall," I read about the "rock climb" suggestion. While that might not be quite the right focus for the Kimmel, the thought underpinning it is not as far fetched as initial reactions would make it.
The point of the suggestion appears to me to be that patrons need a visual focus to enjoy, while passing the time. But, at present, the wall is just that - a very big wall that never changes.
So something needs to be done "for the wall" to make it a centerpiece. If possible re materials, etc, my suggestion is to make the wall into a "subtle" waterfall, with muted lighting that keeps changing, perhaps with a fish pond with exotic species at its base.
What I am picturing is not a rushing waterfall that would damage the wood or even hide it. Rather, something like a "water curtain" with lighting that keeps changing its colors and hues - sort of a reverse of the fountain curtains for the Longwood Gardens' stage - might create that effect.With the appropriate materials to prove a barrier and protection for the wood set a few inches out from the wall itself, I believe this is achievable.
Regardless, the plan "must" provide a relaxing, central focus/conversation piece. Whatever it is, in my opinion, it ought not be static. Rather, it needs to dynamic and create somewhat of a hypnotic effect, such that patrons find themselves glancing toward the "focus" every now and then. Then, many will undoubtedly chat about "it" when they excitely tell others about the great time they had at the Kimmel Plaza.
In short, make "meet me at the Kimmel" a destination for friends meeting in "town," just as "meet me at the Wannamaker Eagle" used to be, as well as for center city workers and residents who want to meet for lunch, a drink after work and light snack to dinner before a performance, etc.
Just knowing this Kimmel enhancement effort is being undertaken is stimulating to me. I hope it is to others as well.
West Chester University
The building is so wrong . . . . . frankly, I'd turn the thing into an aquarium. Just fill it with water, add fish.
Vinoly clearly did not understand Philadelphia. He forced a concept ill suited for the given site. May he sleep with the fishes.
Seriously - I understand that the AIA book store and AIA headquarters are moving from their 17th and Sansom location. Given the amount of traffic that the architects' book store generates, it would be have interesting to see the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA move into the Kimmel. Would add lots of people (and would be a odd turn to have the AIA chapter in such a failure of a building).
So - best fix, anything that adds people 24-7. Bookstore, Starbucks, live music, cars (car show cross over - "come to the Kimmel to see concept cars -for free- get discount tickets for the car show"), plants (Flower Show cross over), art from the Art Museum (its a theme, link to all Philly institutions), comfy seating, cyber cafe, have Ryan Howard try to hit a baseball over the top from Broad Street on opening day . . . . .
I had the honor of being in one of the Penn Praxis groups last Monday. It was an interesting experience. I had two ideas that were voiced, but didn't quite make it to paper.
The first was moving the gift shop to another location and replacing it with a high end deli of the type that the originator of Pastrami & things, Kibbutz and the 4th Street Deli created. Hopefully you could get him to run it. Have it open from 7am to midnight.
The second, I'll admit, is a bit tacky but could be implemented rapidly and be low cost.....put in a vending machine area. Make is so it could be blocked off during performance times.
There...that's my extra two cents. Thanks for keeping this in the public's eye.
Philadelphia, PA 19102
These comments are probably coming toolate to be of interest, but I wanted to say that I've been mystified since day one as to the purpose of the roof garden in the Center. On three different occasions, just for the heck of it, I'vegone up to theRoof Garden. In my three visits I've encountered only one, count them, one other human being. Why did they build it? On my first visit up there, I thought what a wonderful spot that would be to sit, read, have lunch, whatever. They could certainly have a sandwich place going up there. Again, why was it built?
I appreciate your efforts.
Sincerely, Dr. Lowell Krawitz
Think: Jane Jacobs! Think: her explanation of why Rittenhouse Square was and still is so alive and healthy and appealing! Multiple uses throughout the day and evening keep that square safe and vibrant. In addition, Jacobs underscored the screaming importance of having soaring buildings come down to the human scale by designing things at eye level and "first floor" level. It's all about scale. The Kimmel is NOT active day and night, and both its exterior and interior dwarf the people who pass by and/or enter. It is neither warm nor welcoming. It is hard, with no soft "accessories." The wood and the stone are superb. The ceiling is awesome. Suggestion--for starters, why not invest in some huge, huge plants/trees, lots of them. Trees are green and living and elicit a response from their beholders and they are on the human scale.
Thank you for taking on this project.
Virginia F. Pusey
Every year since the Kimmel Center has been open, Inquierer writers have rightly pointed out that the Center, specifically Commonwealth Plaza, fails to function as a public space. Yet, no action is ever taken to fix this (re: "A more inviting Kimmel Center," Chris Satullo, 1/26). An often repeated inexpensive suggestion has been to significantly increase the amount of seating in the plaza. The lack of seating discourages people from sticking around the plaza after concerts, let alone visiting it on days when there are no performances. It's disappointing that the Kimmel lacks the will to adopt this long suggested commonsense improvement to the facility.
I teach US history at CCP. For the first two years after the Kimmel opened, I take small (under 10) groups of students on a walking tour of 100 years of Philadelphia architecture. Starting from the 1901 US Mint's rotunda and ending at the 2001 Kimmel. At any and all stops enroute, whether office buildings, public buildings or even the first subway station, the 1905 19th St. Station, a common thread was helpfulness and friendliness from any staff or guards.
The single and glaring exception - the Kimmel Center. Guard, salespeople in the gift shop and people who just seemed to appear from nowhere all asking, " Can I help you?" What was plain was the help they were offering was help out the door. When told this was a college group looking at the new building, responses ranged from "you can't stay" to "touring or looking only on officially sanctioned tours is allowed." I can honestly say I have been treated in a more friendly fashion by TSA agents in airports.
Thus my single recommendation. If people are wanted in the building, reinstruct the help to act like it. When I meet friends for a preconcert drink on the second floor, we are treated graciously and with genuine enthusiasm. That would be a good attitude for anyone working in the building to have toward visitors. In the meantime, the Kimmel is not on my list of places to visit.
History Dept. CCP
Here are some design flaws that will be difficult and expensive to fix, but which will make the place safer and more user-friendly (and I’m a fan!).
• There aren’t enough elevators, and the ones they have are too small and too slow.
• There should be an escalator for folks who have seats in the upper tiers but don’t want to wait for one of those tortoise-like elevators.
• The stairs, while attractive, are dangerous. I was at a concert with an elderly relative and she had a serious fall, ending up in the ER with a cut on the back of her head. (She was using the stairs because she didn’t want to wait for the elevator which she tried unsuccessfully to use during intermission ) The steps themselves are too narrow. While she was being attended to a woman told her she too had had a bad fall on those steps (the ones near the gift shop).
• The glass doors to enter the building are also a hazard. They swing too abruptly when you give them a good pull. I got my foot caught under the door as I opened it last year. Boy did that hurt!
Those are my main issues. One of my friends hates the length of the rows and the lack of a center aisle on the floor of Verizon Hall.
I also agree with you about those cheesy tables and chairs, and also the prices at the snack bar in the “Commonwealth Plaza.” I have not eaten at the expensive restaurant but I hear that it is both overpriced and not very good.
Best wishes in your efforts to improve a great arts venue!
The problems with the public spaces at the Kimmel Center have been known since the week after it opened (when all the gentlemen in black tie and the ladies in designer gowns left the building). The problem has not been a want of good ideas, the problem has been that there is no money. Until the Kimmel stablizes its finances with a decent endowment ($50 million +) nothing can happen. I'm not sure how public forums and Penn Praxis can contribute to that. The public forum that will really help the Kimmel Center would be one dedicated to examining ideas for better fund-raising.
I just read your article on the Kimmel Center. It was interesting. You asked for opinions so:
I am born and bred in Philadelphia and I am 68 years old, almost 69. I live in Germantown.
I have never been in the Kimmel Center nor do I expect ever to be in it.
I worked downtown until 2002 when I retired. I went to work and immediately went home after work. I rarely stayed in town.
Since I retired I may have been downtown, at most, five times a year. I think that I may have been there two or three times in 2007.
Getting downtown is difficult. I certainly would not go there at night. The regional railroads have little service and I would never take the subway at night. Driving downtown is horrible.
I suspect that going to an event at the Kimmel at night would cost a small fortune along with the aggravation of driving. Parking is very expensive and tickets to events are expensive. I’ll bet that a trip to a Kimmel event at night could cost over $150.00.
No event downtown is worth that.
I may add, that I also never shop downtown since I can easily get to Montgomery County and pay less sales tax and endure less traffic headaches.
What about setting up some kind of kiosk or billboard type of stands to display works of artists - especially local ones? This possibly could be done with the help of the Clay Studio &/or Nexus Galley or perhaps the Mural Arts Program or the Philadelphia Museum of Art or PAFa.
Also, the food sold there could use a lot of improvement especially in a city of such great restaurants. What they serve now is terrible. They could for starters definitely improve the sandwich selections!
Hope you get a lot of great suggestions. I personally like the Kimmel and also think it could be put to much better use.
You are exactly right in "Toward a friendlier Kimmel", The Phila. Inquirer, Saturday Jan 26. The furniture does look like airport chairs and tables.
I don't know the purpose of the waist high glass wall on the right, as one enters from Spruce Street, but I do know that it provides a barrier both to people wanting to exit to Spruce Street and people coming in from Spruce Street. You can see the end of it, extending from the right, about one-third the way up from bottom to top, on the right side of the photograph. People exiting the Spruce Street elevators, and wanting to exit to Spruce Street, have to squeeze around it. The same goes for people coming up from the coat room. People coming in from Spruce Street and wanting to use the Spruce Street elevators, have to squeeze around it in the other direction. Unless its original purpose is more important, I would get rid of it to provide free access in both directions.
The only other suggestion I have, is to create a rotunda for the center of the floor area in the photograph. I envision this rotunda to be about 15 or 20 feet in diameter, its circular edge being just high and wide enough for easy seating. Inside the rotunda would be greenery, small trees or green plants, for an inviting green area. Possibly, in the center might be an attractive modern sculpture. This could be a meeting place, in the way the Eagle was in the old Wanamaker store.
That's about all I have, at present.
Glad to hear that there is serious thought being given to the lobby. An easy first step would be to replace the round sofas (which do not invite conversation) with chair and sofa groups, facing inward, that would be more comfortable and invite lingering and conversation.
The cafe seating is also uninviting - as you mentioned - the style of tables, plus the way they are set off with the theater-lobby barriers.
I would love to see a new way of serving light dinners before concerts. I was at the LA Philharmonic last year, and they serve reasonably-priced cafeteria-style dinners for about $18 or $20, and have a separate area where there is seating for the meals. The food was good. This is on the main level, I believe.
The opera house in Stockholm has, or did have -I haven't been there in years- a lively restaurant attached to it. It is in a sort of
glassed-in terrace so it can be seen as an attractive place by people passing by.
Likewise, the patrons can see the street and the life of the city. This wouldn't be hard to accomplish at the Kimmel, particularly with the outdoor covered spaces used as sidewalk cafes in appropriate weather.
Thank you for your article in today's paper. I love the Kimmel Center. As a subscriber to the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Kimmel Center Presents Visiting Orchestras series, and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, plus someone who stands in line for Rush Tickets for additional concerts, the Kimmel Center is my "home away from home."
But as a 75 year old who walks with a cane, the Kimmel Center is sometimes difficult. Have you ever tried to catch a down elevator from the 1st or 2nd tier at the end of a concert? They're always jammed with people from the 3rd tier. An escalator - especially from the main floor to the 1st tier - would be very helpful. So that's my primary suggestion for an improvement to this wonderful venue of the arts.
I just finished reading your article in today's Inquirer, so here are my two cents. I think no matter what is done to the inside, to be
successful something needs to be done to the outside of the building to get people's attention. Looking down Broad Street at night, the Kimmel Center is a black hole of darkness. The building desperately needs some exterior decorative lighting accents and signage to add some pizzaz and get people's attention. I would start with "Kimmel Center" spelled out in large red neon letters on the sides of the elevator shaft, large enough to read from City Hall. If there are bars and restaurants inside, there should be illuminated exterior signs for those too. With neon and led lighting technology, all sorts of attention getting accents are possible. Also, the black pedestal at the corner needs something on it. Taking a cue from the Hard Rock Cafe, how about a rotating neon-outlined violin.
We are subscribers to the Chamber Orchestra and so visit the Kimmel Center regularly. In addition, we have also rehearsed and performed there as members of several choruses. I'm not going to deal with the backstage areas in Verizon, although there are problems there.
There is no getting away from the lobby as a cold, hard, uninviting place with a high ceiling. All of the surfaces are hard. The cafeteria chairs make horrible noises when we pull them out and they scrape the floor. There is nothing to do there except (most likely) stand and wait for an event. Well, I guess if it's open you could go into the cramped little shop. Or go upstairs and eat an overpriced meal, if the restaurant is open. We bring our coffee in prior to performances, because the coffee in the lobby is poor.The lobby's a waiting room, not a gathering place.
The atmosphere in the Kimmel lobby is much like a train station's. Except that in a train station (I'm thinking of 30th Street Station) there is a newsstand, there are several food choices, there are plenty of benches, there are interesting people to watch, and so on. But 30th Street also has a high ceiling and hard floors, so it's not such a bad comparison. That's what we wanted in a concert hall, a train station?
Possible improvements: 1) Replace the floor with a softer material. Yes, there will be more maintenance. But paving the floor as they did draws instant comparison to the paving of the Spruce St. sidewalk. Durable but not inviting. 2) Redesign to provide nooks. As a comparison, see Fado or Tir na Nog. High ceiling with its impersonal character, instantly gone. 3) Expand the shop to at least triple its size and open it during the day and evening, especially evenings when there are performances in either hall. 4) Vastly improve the character and offerings of the lobby bar. Make it a destination. 5) Advertise Cadence. Food's OK, prices are high, but no one knows about it (no mention in the 2007 Phila Zagats, for example). Again, make it a destination. 6) Brighten up the lobby with lighting and decor. The tombstones with donors' names are OK, but there's little else to look at. Looks as though the lobby is about money and that's all. And maybe that's correct. 7) Seats. I know they were practicing defensive interior design, trying to keep the bums out (and that's why the bathrooms are not on the lobby level), but the effect is to keep everyone else moving too. 8) Break up the lobby into smaller sections. The vastness of the space is not comprehensible. And it's a little scary.
We love the Perelman. Acoustics are good, sightlines are good, it is comfortable. Verizon---well, another story. But Commonwealth Plaza? Useless.
I have a few suggestions for the Kimmel Center. We attend many events there and find it a very cold place also.
More comfortable seating in the lobby. Bathrooms on the lobby floor. More water fountains all around on every level!!
The glass wall at the front of the staircase near the door must go! When people descend the steps you are walking right into the wall and have to walk around it. In an emergency this could be a very dangerous situation if there is a need for a fast evacuation.
The wooden stairs on those long staircases need reflectors to show where they end. They are very difficult to see and since there are a lot of seniors attending the events, they are doubly hard to see for them. The entire staircase also shakes when a lot of people are leaving the concerts at the same time.
The box seats on the 2nd and 3rd tiers are horrible! They block out the view of a good portion of the stage. That's why you see people in those seats leaning over the rail the entire concert. I suppose it's too late to correct that problem, but the designers should have thought of it in the beginning.
The exit door from the 2nd tier(where we sit most of the time) is too narrow and the set of steps in the narrow staircase leading into the main facility is dark. This is also a dangerous problem in the event of an emergency.
I have mentioned many of these problems in a letter before to the Kimmel Center and got no response.
Thank you for taking this on as a project.
Great article (as usual). Every time I walk through the Kimmel Center I find it almost comical that the 'all-weather civic square' doesn't have what just about every public square in the country has-trees. I think that some landscaping (maybe even a little fish pond with a tiny waterfall so people could hear the sound of water-or some other fountain) would drastically improve and soften the area. The good part (as I see it) is that it is so big and wide open that it would be easy to transform into an appealing indoor space with some trees, plants, colorful flowers, etc.
Thanks for your time,
I am very happy to have the opportunity to share my thoughts about the Kimmel Center. My husband and I have two series, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Visiting Orchestras. In addition, we attend a variety of presentations at the Perelman Theatre.
Since the opening of the Kimmel Center, I have been wondering if there was a committee to examine the architectural drawings. The oversights are so glaring, and those that I am going to mention are quite pedestrian, to be sure. It is alarming to think that so much time and effort, and money were invested in this white elephant. It is also alarming to know that after all of that, the public is going to be asked to support a fixer up campaign.
---There are no bathroom facilities on the main level. Whover heard of such an omission? Negotiating the steep flight of steps is daunting
---Water fountains are difficult to find. On the main level, they are hidden in that little.corner. On the next level they are all the way down the hall by the restaurant. In many venues they are located near the restrooms. (Of course, this would be a problem on the entry level.)
---If this large space was intended to create a town square atmosphere, it would have been a good idea to have a cafe-type food source, a place where visitors couvld sit down to have a cup of coffee or a light snack. The present snack bar is inadequate. Food choices are very limited, and there is no place comfortable to sit.
---To further the town square concept, the gift shop should be moved out of its corner and stocked with items that would encourage browsing and the opportunity for small purchases.
---There should be signs outside and inside to inform the public of the free concerts and exhibits, eg. art, the Pope, etc. People should be made to feel that there is more here than just attending a concert.
---The restaurant is upstairs, off in a corner. If you were coming to the Center for the first time, there's no chance you would find it. In addition to the fact that it is expensive, it is not a welcoming atmosphere. A town square restaurant would invite visitiors and strollers to stop by. Of course, there could be both types of restaurants, but the fact remains that they would have to be accessable.
As I look at it, the Kimmel Center is an architectural failure. But it is not only the architects who should be faulted. It is also the many "authorities" who were perhaps enraptured by architectural "gimmics". They did not do their homework in researching what has made other performing arts centers successful.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to "sound off".
Good luck to Anne Ewers as she undertakes this herculean task.
Maybe the Kimmel would attract more visitors if some of the people who worked there were friendlier. Last year I took an out-of-town friend there during the day to see the place, and when we tried to go upstairs (there was no sign saying we couldn't) the security guard stopped us in a very brusque manner. Honestly, it's not as we two middle-aged women looked like a threat. And even if we had appeared scary, it's easy enough to ask "Can I help you, ladies?" with a welcoming smile. (The unfriendly guard notwithstanding, my friend was mightily impressed with the place.)
As a frequent user and lover of the Kimmel Center, I was inspired by your article on Saturday, January 26. Looking at the stark photo that accompanied your article, it was obvious! The Kimmel Center plaza is in desperate need of multiple "conversation" areas
surrounded by lots of greenery: wooden or garden-type metal coffee tables accompanied by warm looking, comfortable seating large ficus trees surrounded by large easy care asphisdistra, philodendron, and spathyphillum plants
But, there also needs to be something to bring people in: coffee, snacks, musical accompaniment by any of the hundreds of new
struggling artists looking for a chance to demonstrate their artistry, a kind of "open mike" from the local schools and small
venues throughout the city.
And a gallery for local artists to display their art.
It is the Avenue of the Arts, after all. And, of course, advertising to get people to know they can come.
When our 11 year old granddaughter from a small town in Colorado visited us for the Christmas holidays we took her to see Peter Pan, had dinner at the Hard Rock and walked down Broad Street to view the lights stopping at the Kimmel Center to show her the grand building.
It was dead, dim, and deserted. A guard viewed us suspiciously. I do not recall any music which considering where we were would have been appropriate. We left.
A showing of artists works would have would have been interesting. Portraits of famous composers and/or musicians would have been something to look at also. The tabletops could have chess or checker boards imprinted on them. How about recorded music?
This place has little soul.
Your article is right on. My wife and I go to the Kimmel 6-8 times per year. The building is not a destination. It feels more like a government building lobby. The restaurant (Ovations?)is expensive and uninspired. $12 for a pre-concert martini is outrageous. Perhaps a more welcoming environment in the lobby would be to convert one corner to a piano bar with ongoing music, drinks and finger food at reasonable prices. Another spot could be outfitted with comfortable chairs and offer current event or program discussions similar to pre-concert now held in Rendell Room.
As it is now we arrive 20 minutes prior to the event and leave when it is over.
At last! Something is going to be down about that garage-like lobby. Who designed it and what in the world were they thinking of? It nees a covering on the floor. Chairs and tables have been mentioned and that is a big item. Nothing is that lobby makes you want to stay there for any length of time. Good luck to the new designers. Cherry O. Jackie C
I envision the Kimmel with tables and chairs like an outdoor cafe. It should also have park benches with green plants all around. The space is very cold and uninviting... I think with minimal work it would be a warm inviting space. If you look around the area most of the participants (at the Philly Pops) are older and standing around is the last thing most of us want to do.
Thanks for asking.
Your article hit the spot and reflects the frustration my husband and I feel each time we attend the orchestra.
We like to linger after the concerts, have a drink a coffee,a dessert, relax before going to our car and returning to Wyndmoor. We have to leave the Kimmel to find anything! How absurd. Let's try to keep the people already there before worrying about the ones who have yet to enter.
The hard surfaces, the univiting tables (especially the standup ones)..colorless chairs...the endless hum of sounds...
Play off those stone surfaces..looks like the walkways of Barcalona's Gothic Quarter.... hot, mod chairs...cafe tables.... umbrellas to baffle the sound? funky color..some funky attitude..get some art on the walls...Phila is hot with artists and attitude...use it...get rid of the polite sterile nothingness that is the Kimmel.
Dear Mr. Satullo,
Your article about the Kimmel Center reflected the very points my husband and I discuss each time we attend an event held in that beautiful new building.
For over 25 years we have been orchestra subscribers. We have also supported special performances, discussions and family concerts. And we have noted that while we are comfortable in our seats, the hospitable environment ends when we leave them.
We believe that a casual café in a corner of the vast first floor atrium would be of tremendous benefit, not only to the building itself, but to the entire neighborhood of the arts. After performances we often greet friends and search desperately for a place to enjoy simple refreshments and a spot to linger and reflect on the performance. This has an added benefit of spacing the exit from crowded nearby parking lots with everyone leaving at the same time.
We had hoped that the restaurant on the top level might fulfill this desire. However, the early closing prohibits this. Another possibility is to open the restaurant area for an hour and a half after performances, again with a small, simple menu that is not overly pricey.
When the recent dessert venue was offered by the orchestra we signed up immediately, hoping this would be a start to the after theatre experience we so desired.
There is a vast disconnect between the space available and the services provided for those who come to the Kimmel Center. I do hope some consideration will be given towards promoting a more inviting atmosphere for reflection and conversation. “Meet me at the Kimmel Center” could provide a slogan that delivers a promise of lasting relevance in Philadelphia.
Rebecca and Arthur Z, Silver
Cherry Hill, New Jersey
How about these, to be held during weekday lunch hour?:
* A free series of speakers, focusing on current (but not frivolous or pop-culture) topics, such as the housing market, the War in Iraq, etc. Each such talk should include ample time for questions-and-answers with the speaker, and for free-form discussion among the audience. (The White Dog Cafe speaker series might prove a good model in terms of content and format.)
* An open "soapbox area" for anybody to talk about anything. Any given speaker might be restricted to, say, one such talk per month (in order to allow others to speak), but otherwise it should be as open as possible: no preregistration, no content restriction, etc..
- Bill Dingfelder
Thank you for trying to get a better Kimmel Center for all of us.
My suggestion: a bank of escalators. We older orchestra subscribers welcomed a new hall, as we were risking life and limb on the steep steps without railings at the old Academy. Alas, again, we hold on to each other descending the wide staircase, jockeying for a position along the railings. The main stairway is now worn and shabby.
Just a few weeks ago, I witnessed a woman fall on the crowded steps going down to the coatcheck after a concert.
Waiting for an elevator can cause one to be late for a concert, as the elevators are not adequate.
Your columns are great! Particulary enjoyed the one with the Mayor of Atlanta's advice to Nutter.
Ellen Cronin, Drexel Hill
First, let me say that enjoy reading your column on Sundays. I have walked through the Kimmel Center many times on the way to their underground parking lot and have thought the same thing, What a waste of a beautiful space. So, here's my suggestion for how to utilize that space.
I have been to Atlanta and Las Vegas and each of those cities have an off-street Coca-Cola Museum Store. Besides having cool facts, pictures and videos of all things Coca-Cola, they also have a working soda fountain where patrons can sit and enjoy themselves.
Since I would prefer to be original and have something in Philadelphia that is unique to Philadelphia and have something in th Kimmel that is related to music, I would love to see Commonwealth Hall turned into an American Bandstand Museum complete with a soda fountain and coffee shop.
There are a number of reasons why I think this is a great idea:
1. Philadelphia is the birthplace of American Bandstand yet, to my knowledge, there is nothing in Philadelphia to commemorate this.
2. Visitors to the Kimmel Center can plan to arrive for a concert early or stay later after a concert to visit the museum.
3. There are very few places in Center City where out-of-town guests can enter without paying a fee and not be rushed out.
4. Local folks can use the site for a meeting place with friends and co-workers.
5. Disney/ABC/Dick Clark Productions are big names that can back this project.
6. If the American Bandstand Museum Store also included a soda fountain, ice cream fountain and coffee shop, it could also be a repeat destination for locals and Center-City lunch crowds.
7. The museum can have a small dance floor area where former American Bandstand regulars or young high school students from CAPA can dress up in 50's attire and perform the popular dance routines from Bandstand throughout the day.
I don't want to confuse this idea with Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grills which were scattered across the country a few years ago. I'm talking about primarily a Museum first with American Bandstand video tributes, memorabilia, souvenirs, T-shirts and Photo Ops, combined with a venue that serves (for sale) soda fountain drinks, coffee, Apple Pie, ice cream sodas, Bosco, Ovaltine, and has live dance performances throughout the day at scheduled times.
So, what happens next?
Will you present this idea to the Greater Philadelphia Tourism & Marketing Corporation, the Kimmel Center, Dick Clark and ABC/Disney and make me famous?
When I first heard the plans for the Kimmel, I thought it would be an exciting space encouraging city visitors as well as concertgoers to come in. I envisioned perhaps some aspects of the Galleria in Milan with Food and Boutique items sold. I think it would be great to have a number of colorful pushcarts selling both food items and goods. A coffee area with comfortable tables and chairs with free wi-fi would work. Also escalators to bring people up and down from above are essential. Cosy areas to drink would encourage an after-work crowd. Weekday concerts could also bring in folks. Did I mention reduce the price of food and drinks?
These are top of my head thoughts of a frequent concert goer....
Peter J. Ryker Philadelphia
First: GET SOME COLOR into the place.
Then-the bar should be open AFTER the concerts. We are there for the nine Friday afternoon concerts every year, and would
be happy to have a drink and something to eat before going home in the rush hour. I know that many are going to buses
to return to Quadrangle, etc., but many more might stay for a drink if there were somewhere comfortable and feeling
snug to sit. It really is like a barn. Maybe they could put up dividers for some spaces. Now it feels cold and
The one bar is open before the concert, but the other bar is empty and forbidding looking.
The actual restaurant is virtually inaccessible. Seldom open, hard to get to. Maybe it should be where the gift shop
is, so people could see it and come in off the street at all times. The Kimmel seems afraid to try to bring people in
apart from their presentations.
COLOR and warmth is what is needed.
S. G. Bolger
We were very interested in your report re the Kimmel Center. There is a real lack of places to sit all over. In the cafe area in the beginning they put tables out as needed for lunch. Now there are more tables out but they are nearly all taken up after lunch. People need to sit-they cannot stand for 20 minutes especially for the Friday afternoon concert times. I realize that alot of singles sit at these tables and spread out which does not help for the fair use of space.
It is no doubt too late to do anything about it, but there are not enough rest rooms available on the first floor. And there were certainly not enough thought put into elevators. to have all those people pouring down the stairs after a concert is asking for trouble. I know, I stand there and watch.
The food is delicious in the Cadence restaurant and the service is excellent, including the bartender for taking care of you.
Mary Anne Moore
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to complain to someone other than my husband about the Kimmel Center. From the first time I saw the plans when they were displayed at the Academy, I wondered “what were they thinking?” If only Philadelphia could return it and get their money back.
I travel a bit in Europe and have seen some wonderful musical venues. Majestic, exciting places that make you feel wonderful the moment you walk through the doors or even before you walk through the doors. Unfortunately, the Kimmel Center has just about the opposite effect on me.
While the two venues, Verizon Hall and the Pearlman Center are fine enough, the public space is not. The inside feels perpetually grey and gloomy, even on a sunny day. All the hard surfaces create unpleasant echoes throughout the public space. The dome is far taller than it needs to be or should be making the space feel totally out of proportion. I’ve been in some wonderful domed spaces such as the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele in Milan, etc. Why do these spaces inspire while the Kimmel does not? There are many dead end corners that serve no purpose and quite frankly feel creepy. As uninviting and homely as the interior is, the exterior is even worse. It looks more like a maximum security prison than a musical venue. I feel like crossing the street when I begin walking next to those massive red brick barricades. There are blobs of wall sticking out here and there that one wonders what is going on here? There are a few plate glass windows placed where they don’t make sense covered with some sort of drapery, again shutting out the public walking on the street. And then there is the entrance. Most buildings, including one’s own house, are defined by the entrance. The door(s) are the smile on the building, the arms that open to bring you in. At the Kimmel Center, the entrance seems like an afterthought. There is nothing attractive or welcoming about it. The doors are plain and institutional looking. Unless I am attending a show, I would have no desire to walk through those doors.
What can be done to improve this unfortunate situation? Short of demolishing the structure and starting over again, I’m not sure a lot can be done at this point. However, I have a few suggestions.
Turn those dead end corners into shops or small cafes. There are many train stations in Europe where inviting spots are carved out of small spaces. Luxury hotels carve out charming small spaces in their public areas. That bar at the Kimmel turns me off totally. We have never purchased anything there.
Create a charming tea room like the Orangerie in Kensington Gardens in London, with real china please, not plastic or Styrofoam.
If possible, punch out some windows facing the street so people can look in and not feel intimidated about coming in.
Create a conservatory feel with the addition of plantings like Longwood Gardens’ main Conservatory. Of course, the floor space is somewhat limited. The opera house in London has a wonderful conservatory feel about it. Take a trip and get some ideas.
The exterior is just plain ugly and uninviting. Maybe tromp d’oeil painting could salvage it if structurally it can’t be changed. At least paint some windows on those blank brick walls. They have done some wonderful tromp d’oeil work on buildings in Lyon, France, and all over Austria and other countries. Of course, this would ruin the architect’s “vision” of the building but he has failed to create something we can be proud of. Poor Mr. and Mrs. Kimmel.
Thank you for this opportunity. I have long felt that Kimmel is a disaster. Every visit reveals a new reason. I've numbered 14 possible changes.
The newest addition to my list was added last Friday when I stood in line for the first tier toilet on the right. There are 2 urinals and 2 stalls. There are alternatives. I could have gone downstairs to cross over to the other side since Verizon Hall was not open 25 minutes before the performance. Or I could have waited for the small elevator to take me to the cellar. Helpful.
There no way the excrescence of the elevator on Broad St. can be removed. It does damage the effect of the glass tin can. However, what about that black box on the corner?
1. Begone. What about signs that call attention to the place?
2.Especially "Coming Attractions" including the free ones. Please god, nothing as vulgar as that glitzy cosmetics ad on the front of the Roberts Theater.
The slope of the slate floor and its color are probably permanent. What about marble tournaments? Or at least a few carelessly dropped marbles to demonstrate the slightly disorienting aspect of the design?
3. Keep the "dependence" in the state motto. It'll be a Philadelphia joke like Billy Penn's hand viewed from the Parkway. You're right that the slate color doesn't raise the spirits as good theater design always
4. Move the bar to the "gift shop" and vice versa. A bar visible from the street should boost sales and solve some of the problem with the space between the bar and those stupid tables and chairs.
5. You're right about that furniture. Get rid of it.
6. Put in seating. Were those donuts the last in The Dump and on sale?There could be room opposite the bar.
7. Change the lighting. At night everyone, young and old, looks gray like the naked ladies on the balcony. Or there's a floodlight in your face.
8.Do something with the round back of the Perelman. It's a big blank empty shape. With shadows as you pass the floor lights on your way to the toilets. Dismal. Solving that is a no brainer.
9. Get rid of the roof garden unless income from rental for functions makes a profit. Put plants on the south balconies that get sun.
10. Rethink the placement of the art. There's a good collection. Print a list with a map.
11. Move the box office. What a welcome: velvet ropes and squawky voices. Even a coffee bar would be better and maybe draw in street traffic. Or the gift shop.
12. Rethink the restaurant. Who wants to go to a place without the north facing view of Broad St. And the view inside the Kimmel is no treat. It feels like it's under the eaves, if there were eaves.
13. Do something about the temporary stage. It's hidden. Put it nearer the entrance.
14. There's no chance of a marquee. Could there be some kind of sheltering roof on both sides of the place? There are all kinds of
fabric possibilities. The interior is chopped up with meeting rooms and the boxy shapes at the 15th St. end. I doubt that anything can be done. But again the point of the roof is diminished by being less visible.
Inside the Verizon there's that ugly hovering shape above the stage. It's very visible. At last count there were 15 wires hanging from the ceiling. There are so many supports for lighting. Couldn't thse have been concealed? Is this the best that technology can do?
Inside, the Perelman has wall covering that looks stapled on. The floor is unfinished concrete in too many places. I enjoy stamping up the metal stairs to the balconies. Very glam it all is.
I appreciate the helpful staff. They are unfailingly kind in my experience. There, I've paid a compliment.
Overall the place is unattractive and not audience friendly. Who really wants to trek up that staircase to cross catwalks into Verizon? Think of the inviting flanking stairs at the Academy. Have you ever waited for the small elevator opposite the Perelman? There are better elevators, but that's the first one a visitor comes upon.
The place is recessive like the Academy as you drive on Broad. That being so, the roof is a waste.
If Kimmel had taste, he'd pay to have his name taken off.
Good luck. I hope changed results from your work.
Cheers, Bruce Waddington
My suggestion to encourage more people to come to the center is to have free entertainment at 6 PM Monday through Friday in the Commonwealth Plaza with food and drinks available. This is what they do at the Kennedy Center.The slate floor is certainly not very inviting. Some carpeting would be a good start.
Your comments about the problems of the Kimmel Center are right on target in my view. However, I was surprised that you didn't mention that awful stairway from the lobby to the 1st Tier level. I think there are 37 or 38 steps, with no landing, and it's not wide enough for more than 2 people to walk side by side and still be able to hold on to a railing. On the other hand, the stairways at the Academy from the lobby to the Balcony level are wider, and have a railing in the middle, as well as both sides -- so twice as many people can move up or down, and still hold on to a handrail if they need to.
Since 1952 I had enjoyed going to the Academy of Music to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra, and after we were married, my wife and I were devoted subscribers to the Orchestra before their move the Kimmel Center. Our seats at the Kimmel were in the 1st Tier, so we had to go up that long, narrow stairway. We put up with it for one season, and when we did not renew our orchestra series for the following year, we had a call asking us why. I told them that the stairway at the Kimmel must have been designed by someone who didn't know what he (or she) was doing, because if they had, there would have been escalators instead of, or at least in addition to, the stairways.
We have never been back to the Kimmel, and have no intention of ever doing so -- unless perhaps they should happen to add escalators from the lobby to the 1st Tier!
Vernon A. Austin
I have attended several events at the Kimmel with my wife and friends. The stairs are a problem, and the elevator situation is dismissal.
I was not even aware there were restaurants available. The idea of an open plaza seems good, but the slope to the floor again is a problem.
I'm sorry to report such bad reviews, but that is how I see it.
Thank you for your article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Saturday, January 26, 2008, concerning the shortcomings of the Philadelphia Kimmel Center, and for your invitation to readers to offer comments and recommendations.
What is the objective? Is there really a plan for what the space inside the Kimmel Center is to do? What function is it to fulfill? As it currently exists it is decorated and arranged only to be used as an area for shaking off rain drops and milling around during intermissions. Apparently, from what you say and what I see, nobody wants to go there or stay there longer than concert going requires.
If the space is intended to be a center where the smart, young and upwardly mobile set gather for after-office elbow-bending it needs to be reorganized and decorated with that objective in mind. At the moment, the space offers none of the atmosphere that such a use demands. The alley between the two halls has become a characterless chasm that just seems to sit there. It does not welcome anyone anywhere, and is in desperate need of brightening up.
If simple and inexpensive (relatively) brightening up is what is required, hire a first class decorator and accept that some wood, no matter how rare and precious, may have to go and lots of color may have to be introduced. I know this is Philadelphia, but the Kimmel is not a wood of the world reference collection. Sorry!
I suggest moving the ground floor long bar from its present location on the side of the Perelman Theater, a spot where it is too screened from public view, and relocating it to the east wall of Verizon Hall. If this were done the bar would be visible from both front and side entrances. If the plan is to make this a social center, the next step would be to brighten up the bar by adding top-of-the-line fixtures and filling all shelves with bottles, if only filled with colored water. In other words, make the bar look as though it actually does some business and is ready to take money. By-the -way, I find those little crowd-control stands with cords between them unfriendly. They belong in banks, not bars.
The present elevators are not well located, stuck away in the far reaches of the ground floor space as though afterthoughts in the master plan. The only elevator that is currently conveniently located needs to be a bank of three or four cars rather than a single car. May I suggest the architects examine the possibility of installing escalators from ground to second floor? Space for the escalators may be gained by moving the present long bar to the opposite side of the space between the halls. This is a primarily practical measure that would serve everyone, particularly older patrons, and would ease the burden on the elevators by offering second tier customers an easy passage to that floor. The present staircases are formidable, visually daunting and a challenge to use.
Just a few Sunday afternoon thoughts for you. Thanks for inviting comments. I enjoyed day-dreaming about it all. I hope you get lots of good, practical and cheap suggestions.
Terence C Roper
One thing you and your colleagues might consider is meeting with private sector firms that are managing similar spaces in other major cities. They would probably meet with you on their nickel and give you an opportunity to "pick their brains" You would be under no obligation, but it might improve your final product.
My husband and I were so glad that we're not the only people who think the Kimmel Center could use a lot of improvement. We have a subscription to the Philadelphia Orchestra and we also take our granddaughter to the Childrens' Concerts, so we are there several times a year.
Our main problem with the Kimmel Center is that it is dark and gloomy. There is not nearly enough light and the gray decor is dismal. Once or twice a year we go to Lincoln Center to see the Metropolitan Opera.The building is filled with light. Even before you walk into the opera hall you feel as though something wonderful and exciting is about to happen. When we walk into the lobby of the Kimmel Center we feel as though we are visiting a state penitentiary. Sometimes I almost feel depressed.
Thanks for the opportunity to give our input. I sure hope some improvements can be made.
Mrs. Marsha Yorinks
Dear Chris Satullo:
Much as the Commonwealth Plaza needs to be brought to life--and even at concert time it is crowded rather than lively--, the real curse of the Kimmel Center is its link--or lack of link--with the surrounding streets. There is not a spot on any of its three major street frontages that catches the eye of the passers-by or that successfully tempts them to come in now or to plan to come in later. Even if there are excited and exciting audiences gathered inside, people on the street can barely see them. If the Commonwealth Plaza is made livelier, who will know it unless something is done to open the sight lines to it and to mount tempting posters advertising its charms--and the charms of the performances and other entertainments taking place within the complex.
But by far the worst feature of the building, and the one that most kills its contact with the City, is the Kaaba at the corner of Broad and Spruce Streets. Mecca may have its reason for a featureless black stone at the center of its universe; Philadelphia needs something lively and interesting at what is probably its most important street corner. The Spruce Street wall of the Kimmel has already been deadened with the windowless back of the ticket office, but the corner is even less satisfying. If the space inside it is filled with mechanical devices, take the walls off and let us watch the gears move or wheels turn or fluids flow. If there is available space inside, get someone to create a moving work of art--something like the things that amuse us when we have time on our hands at the Airport. If the inside is a solid block of stone--a real Kaaba--then put mirrors on the outside so we can see ourselves and others moving in the neighborhood. Then add some interesting neon signage to lead people into the building where they can provide and enjoy the liveliness your forums are trying to encourage.
The Perelman Theatre interior may be the best small concert hall this side of Prague, and both it and Verison Hall house some of the world's best musical performances, but the Kimmel Center has done nothing to tell people of the pearls that lie inside its ugly oyster. Good luck on doing something about it.
James D. Crawford
Over the years, I've read many your articles and writings in the Inquirer, and you are one of the reasons I keep subscribing.
Your comments and point of view about the deadness and hardness of the Kimmel Center had to be said - and glad you did in such a public way.
On another note, each time I enter the lobby to inquire about future performances, or purchase tickets, I dread the enclosed plastic ticket office barrier. Right off the mark one is put off, and made to feel distant, as if intruding. When I step up to the ticket counter, I feel as if I'm approaching some sleazy check cashing outpost, or waiting in line in a bank that has been robbed too many times. The first time I had to do this, I was startled and unnerved ( and the ticket agent could hardly hear me, nor me her), and left before purchasing any tickets. So much for making one feel welcome.
Thanks for the article on the Kimmel Center. I live across the street at Center City One (1326 Spruce) and the only time I've ever gone in that place was to see a concert or to buy tickets to an Academy event. I agree that this great space is being wildly underused. The good thing is that it is still there and beautiful.
I am a salesperson and attend roughly 7-10 networking events a month. These events are held generally at the Chamber of Commerce or at a restaurant or hotel venue. Kimmel Center would be a great venue to hold weekly or monthly professional networking events. You could call it: Kimmel Center Professional Networking -- charge $10 to $20 a head and get 100 people -- no problem. I'd be happy to help promote it. Get the Chamber involved -- I am chair of the Ambassador Committee there and know for sure that any night could easily draw people with the right people spreading the word.
Also - I spend many hours at Starbucks on Pine and in the Bellevue. I notice that Naked Chocolate on Juniper is usually full. Why not promote a good coffee bar in there?
Put a nice big screen HDTV in there for movies and sporting events -- I'd go.
Just some thoughts --
A quick suggestion for the Kimmel:
While the pre/post-show programs & "Free in the plaza" series are additional draws for ticketed shows, I don't believe the evening programs draw many additional audience members. However, a weekly/monthly lunchtime series could be a great community & audience builder.
Provide seating & invite local workers/residents to bring a lunch (and the restaurants could provide quick lunch items). Then, present a series featuring local professionals and/or selected music students/ensembles from any of the local schools (UArts, Curtis, Temple, W.Chester, Settlement, etc)
And by all means - plug upcoming programs (related or not) and the guests can purchase their tickets on their way back to work.
Ross Mann _ Guitar
Dear Chris Satullo,
This devoted classical music lover and occasional Philadelphia Orchestra concert-goer can't resist responding to your recent Kimmel Center article.
I attend not for the ambiance so much as for the music. However, coming and going and intermission time, it seems like I'm hit over the head by the discomfort of the very space you wrote about; and each time it crosses my mind that my chief (and maybe only) gripe is THE LIGHTING. Dark and dank on others' faces, and, worse, lights glaring in my eyes.
So, I've wondered if a solution for this great, unusual space might be something along the plan of the great intelligent designer's -- namely, continuously variable lighting. Bright sunshine, overcast, twilight, whatever.., following some kind of computerized schedule.
I imagine way up there a gridwork populated with many many motorized lamps, all traveling imperceptibly -- sometimes converging to high noon and beaming straight down, sometimes spreading out to the far reaches of the ceiling, sometimes rotating upward to reflect their light off of their respective adjustable-color parabolic reflectors, sometimes shining down through AND reflecting up from adjustable polaroid-type reflector/filters, all to effect legions of different candescences and shadings, some even unearthly. As with the weather, if you don't like the lighting, wait a while.
I'm hardly a lighting designer, and for all I know such a scheme might be common practice among architects -- or a crackpot idea. But, since you brought up the problem, I thought I'd make light of it by mentioning my idea.
(Also, generally speaking, I enjoy the terrific perspectives you bring so often to the Inquirer.)
Dear Mr. Satullo,
THANK YOU for providing this forum, which is so desperately needed. I have a couple of really simple, relatively cheap (i.e., cheap-inexpensive, not cheap-tacky) ideas:
- Greenery, as you mentioned, but instead of a just few lonely potted ficuses (fici??) forlornly flung about, how about planters affixed to the balcony ledges, with trailing fronds of that long variegated ivy-type stuff (a gardener I am not; the name escapes me, but you see it everywhere) cascading lushly down to the floor? These vines grow rapidly and thickly, require almost no tending, (if I can't kill them, no one can) and would create a softening, warming effect.
- Fountains, fountains, fountains. Big, small, waterfalls, walls of water, reflecting pools, running streams--again the cascading image comes to mind. Here not only the soothing sight of the water, but also the sound will draw people in and calm them. The combined effect of the sight and music of the water and the greenery will create the sense of an urban oasis, a winter garden, which this natural greenhouse/crystal palace/conservatory of a space practically begs to become: The Kimmel Center as Center City's answer to Longwood Gardens (okay, maybe not quite).
- Finally, if you want to attract people, you have got to feed them. The plaza should be a giant indoor/outdoor cafe. The corner of Broad and Spruce has got to be the greatest waste of urban sidewalk frontage since Neil Stein figured out that putting a table and chair on the pavement was a good idea. With all the foot traffic that corner could draw, to have nothing there turns it into a vast wasteland (apologies to Newton Minow). Set up cafe tables and chairs, fling open the doors, and set up more inside. People will come. They will sit. They will watch the world go by. The "menu" doesn't have to be fancy or expensive; coffee, sandwiches, salads, ice cream will do. Give it to Cosi and let them have their way with it. Then when it's time for a show, simply clear out the tables and chairs. It could work. In the meantime, it will keep a constant flow of foot traffic coming through. It is not rocket science. Heck, throw in a regular cycle of street musicians and performers and it will truly become a public square.
Thanks again for letting me, and all of us, have our say. Good luck with this effort, Mr. Satullo.
Nancy Katz Colman
As a fairly frequent visitor to the Kimmel Center (2-3 times per month), I have become accustomed to the rather impersonal feeling of the building. There are some very good things going on and with minor adjustments could be greatly enhanced.
One asset is the pre-concert recitals, if you know about them. When entering on the Broad Street side, a visitor may not even realize that a free, live performance may be scheduled or even be in the process of being played. They seem more like private affairs, not open to the public. If the sounds were shared in the ticket area (speakers, perhaps?), not only would more people be aware of the music, but it might be an enjoyable welcome as you enter. Let the public know that they are welcome.
The snack area is a nice place to get an informal bite to eat; however, the lighting is so bad it is difficult to read the newspaper, program notes, or much of anything. Also, defining the eating area in some way would make a cozier feeling than the feeling now of sitting in the middle of the foot traffic.
As for what would draw people in... what about an ice cream parlor? Everyone likes ice cream. No ovens. Little odor. If it is visible from the street, it certainly would be an attraction. Do not know of another that is in the vicinity. BUT, it would have to be affordable for families. On days when there are children's concerts, a magician, juggler, etc, could be hired for an "apres concert" show. Even a walk-up window would appeal to those who are leaving and want a cone to eat on the way to wherever.
Another thought, at the opposite end of the spectrum, is to have a sheet music store. The only one I am familiar with in center city is at Jacobs Music. If I am wrong, I would love to know where I can find another. Being on the Avenue of the Arts, it would lend itself to the area. Many patrons of the Phila. Orch. concerts are musicians, whether serious or casual, and might welcome a place where they could browse through music. It is becoming increasing difficult to do so. I have stopped in at Borders and the store that used to be Tower Records. Only the basics are stocked. What do the students at PCPA do. Is everything ordered off the internet? I knew a woman who purchased a copy of every concerto performance she attended. She didn't play, but wanted to be able to follow along while listening to a recording of the work when she got home. I know this because I was the recipient of her collection of about 30 piano concertos. I realize that this would most likely take too much space for a complete inventory. Might a satellite of the Delaware Valley Music (Jacobs music store, I believe) be a consideration?
One last thought. The restaurant on the top level doesn't seem to be utilized. What about a soup/sandwich/salad restaurant. We need something good, light, inexpensive, quick, and with atmosphere. The sandwiches downstairs are fine for a quick fix, but vegetarians don't have much to choose from. Certainly, the upstairs restaurant could serve some tasty, imaginative food that would appeal to all tastes and preferences, and not break the bank. I really think it could be quite an asset, if the price were kept reasonable.
Please pass my suggestions along. I hope to see some improvements.
I was so pleased to catch your article and I thank you in advance for the opportunity to offer my reflections on the Kimmel Center. As a small child I was taken to the Academy of Music to enjoy the culture of Philadelphia. From the moment the trip was to take place, I had an expectation. Upon arrival at the Academy, there was a physical setting that framed the experience and set the tone. From start to finish I was enchanted and elevated. The OUTSIDE world was obscured and a person was transported. People are not going looking for a 'friendly' experience, they are looking for a shared communal experience that takes place in the music halls when listening to the music. An identity crisis is a very large part of what is wrong at the Kimmel. It is a building trying to be two things and if I were a doctor my diagnosis would be that of a patient with two personalities destined never to mesh. The lob by is unattractive and speaks to nothing. It is cold and industrial looking. The 'snack tables' are, I'm sorry to say - ugly. And while I appreciate a gift shop, and understand the need to support the Kimmel with sales of gift items, there is something jarring about its presence. It makes the world seem "too much with us". Of course, I can offer no advice on structural change. No doubt that is impossible anyway, but as far as I'm concerned the only help for encouraging patrons to embrace the building will be in finding a way to make the lobby part of the musical experience and not part of a 'social scene' that is usually taken care of in restaraunts before and after the performances. I hope I havn't been too negative, but I was terribly disappointed in the lobby of Kimmel Center and felt it was a huge let down. Andrea N. Lutz
I agree with fact that the Kimmel is not customer friendly, but what concerns me more is the fire trap the exit stairs are. The wall at the bottom of the stairs would keep people from getting out if there were an emergency. There doesn't seem to be any reason for it except to cause a bottleneck when leaving a concert.
We have actually changed our seats to the opposite side of Verizon Hall so we use the far stairs and will be able to leave quickly if there is an emergency.
I hope Ms. Ewers looks at safety as well as ways to get more people into the building.
That was an interesting piece on the Kimmel Center. One thought I had while reading the piece was on the ticketing area. Right now, this area is on the right as you enter from Broad Street. As an alternative, perhaps the ticketing could be moved to a kiosk in the open area of the center or perhaps attached to the Perelman theater wall, which might allow more queuing than a central location. Either location would give a little more structure to the space and would open up the current ticket area for a more compelling use facing the street, such as a cafe. The kiosk could be designed in a modern style and would fill the space the way kiosks do at some train stations.
If the Kimmel Center does get a designer, they should have someone on the team who designs retail space for malls or lifestyle centers, or perhaps designs amusement parks. These designers seem to really understand how people move through a space and react to what they see.
I should have liked to have been able to attend the citizens' forums on the Kimmel Center.I am looking forward to hearing more about what was said.
In my opinion, the main problem is the fortress like facade of the Center. It looks like a prison.
If you have activity inside, no passer-by notices. People attract people.
The shop is open to the street, but is not an activity.
Dining is an engaging activity.Short of blasting off the Broad Street walls, I think making the shop into a dining venue, open all the time, would be a good lure. Then there has to be some activity in the atrium. even just an artisic slide show, or film, or juggler, or soloist. Even Nordstrom's has a pianist.In other words, a pleasant, interesting activity, that might encourage folks to hang around. Well designed, comfortable seating would help.
And what is that black marble thing at the Broad and Spruce corner?
What a good place for a window. Or a box office. Even buying tickets is daunting.
the shop could be like the Metropolitan Opera shop. Run by the orchestra and the Kimmel Center cooperatively. And in an inside space.
I just wanted to lob a quick and perhaps hurried note to voice my admiration for the column you wrote for Saturday’s paper about this now-in-motion effort to make the public spaces of the Kimmel Center more effective.
Clearly, a ton of people pass through its doors every week, and after five or so years of operation that’s a lot of opinions and impressions that have taken hold. Just as clearly, if there is so organized an effort to re-work that interior space, then the recognition it’s not working is widely-held and broadly recognized. The structure and heft of the effort sounds substantial; it’s clear that good minds are at work on this and that something good will come of it.
Still, I did have this eruptive reaction in reading your column about how exactly, precisely, other’s perceptions were my own – ‘cold,’ ‘uncomfortable,’ ‘dead.’ I’d go further and note the very poor craftsmanship in some places – the crinkled-up carpeting on the 2nd tier landings, falling plaster in some instances where the roof leaks, the FACT that the roof leaks, etc., etc.
Note, for instance, that the Dorrance Terrace atop the Perelman is, literally, unusable in the warmer weather so intense are the temperatures. Additional disappointments include the Kremlin-like sensibility of the façade that runs the length of Spruce Street, the uselessness of the rear and side of the building (opposite of Spruce) to communicate in any compelling way. The building occupies an enormous footprint yet there are really only three components that work – the vaulted ceiling, the two concert halls.
This all points me to some additional paths to your thinking you might find helpful. Simply put, there also needs to be a good dose of outrage that such a mammoth project, one literally 20+ years in the making, could come up so short.
Given all that was hoped for here, given the enormous engagement of personal and financial and public capital, given that the building is not even fully paid for, I think there’s something outrageous about the project being so deficient in so many ways. I mean, you only get one shot to make such an enormous undertaking work. With Lincoln Center as the nearby model, it’s pretty astounding to me how great is the shortfall here.
Which brings me, finally, to the pass that the architecture profession gets on this one. They clamor to be regarded as one of the great professions, angling for respect and reverence akin to what we give those in the healing arts. But when they botch something as badly as they’ve botched this, they cite the planners, the funders, of how, with another gazillion, they would have gotten it just right but were brought down by petty accountants or weak-willed leadership.
I’m thrilled you’re involved, and I have a much better feeling about this effort knowing you are. But I’m encouraging you to reconsider this with a blunter instrument. To my lights, the failure of this building to come even a little bit close to the intention that nearly everyone had articulated for this massive public space, this critical societal function, is a pretty remarkable instance of professional malpractice. Don’t go so easy on ‘em.
Good article, Chris. The most serious problem we, as senior citizens, have with the Kimmel is lack of lavatories on the street floor. The elevators are too small and crowded during an intermission. Thanks, Richard and Valerie Cross
Some ideas that occur to me for programs/ functions for the Kimmel's public spaces follow:
...Encourage radio stations to do periodic remote broadcasts from the Kimmel and invite the public to attend. This will encourage people who may otherwise not know its location to locate and enter the Kimmel. It will also permit the radio listening audience to hear the name Kimmel many times each broadcast. In addition, if the radio person where given tickets to attend a Kimmel show, s/he would no doubt discuss their experience over the air.
...Given the relative failure of the restaurant, perhaps establishing a program whereby local chefs prepare a menu, or at least a dish, and cook for the public, say one weeknight per month for a year, and have those who eat from these menus evaluate them over the course of the year. At the end of the year, the favorite dishes would become the Kimmel menu, with the names of the chefs attached to the dishes. The chefs could donate the receipe as a gift to the Kimmel. (Many variations of this idea are easy to think of, but to create a positive buzz about food and the Kimmel would be nice.)
...Establish a program wherby talented students get to show their stuff in a Kimmel competition performed in Kimmel's public space. The competetion(s) could be on just about anything, e.g. student orchestra, fine arts, cheerleading, dancing, singing, etc. Such programs would attract a built in audience of family and friends. (This may have the potential to establish a national competition among the leading major musical venues throughout the country, which may also wish to use their public spaces fro the common good.)
...Establish a meet-the-orchestra program whereby one (or more) member(s) of the orchestra performs in the public space and leads a discussion on music generally, and how her/his instrument fits into the world of music, and so on. The audience could be of limited number,and comprised of students who play said instrument, and have a serious interest in music. It could have a snappy title like, "Instruments of Joy," or something.
...Establish a Kimmel Center pre-school to operate in the public space.This would require kid size toilets to conform to state requirements. The pre-school enrollment could be constructed to represent every part of the city. It could have a name that represents its intent like, "One World...One Philadelphia." The curriculum could focus on music. (The cost to operate such a school is minimal and could easily be funded with donations and grants.) GOOD LUCK! Jim Pallante
that was an interesting recent article about making the kimmel center an open, welcoming place, which most of the time it is not. as an aside - one time that it was open and welcoming was the one time in the last two ot three years that we went to the mummers' parade. the warm building was open to all, so were the lavatories, and there was a rather wide variety of food available (more than just soft pretzels!). expensive, but available.
but back to the topic at hand. a suggestion for improvement of the ground floor would be the removal of that horrible, (and probably fire safety hazardous!) transparent, waist-high barrier at the bottom of the main stairway from the upper floors. the one that you have to go AROUND in order to get to the exit doors! it is surprising that the fire marshall approved it in the first place!
i'm not quite sure whether your article related to improvement of only the main floor or not. no matter, i have some suggestions for other levels as well.
additional and larger lavatories are needed on the second and third levels, as are additional and better-located water fountains.
and now for my main concern about the upper levels. i'm not sure if the following is feasible or not, i'm not an architect. if possible, more stairways should be provided! bacically there are two main stairways from the upper floors. and, if you've never been behind a slow moving often elderly patron after a concert, try walking behind one sometime. unfortunately these patrons would be a hindrance in case of an emergency. i know - provide additional exits, and they too would be blocked by slow moving patrons! (if you build it, they will come, just like highways surrounding phila.!) also, egress from the conductor's circle seems to be far from ideal. again it is surprising that the fire marshall ever approved this design in the first place!
thank you for taking the time to read this rather long suggestion.
I have several thoughts re invigorating the center:
1. There is a need for a coffee, tea (I hate to use the word Starbucks) type of spot with comfortable seating which would populate the now vacant hall.
2. Cadence is a failure because of its limited hours, high prices and so-so menu. While there may be a desire for a high end restaurant for the concert goers, their number is relatively miniscule and they only show up before their concert. We need a more moderate food service that is available most of the time and, again, to populate the area.
3. I don't know the liquor license situation, but the present bars are so minimally ava ilable that they are almost invisible by their hours and their locations.
4. As many, including Inga Saffron, have pointed out the structure of the building ,at the corner, blocks out any view into the the hall. The new Roberts theater has the right idea with the glass wall along Broad Street. Also the plasma video screens could be used to attract people's attention and possibly lure them inside. I'm well aware that the center is cash poor, but some
upbeat, innovative proposals could shake free some contributions, more so than fixing the acoustics in Verizon Hall.
5. The Kimmel Center should be a destination, not just to view the architecture, but as a place to grab a bite, have a drink, or just mingle with others.
6. And how about entertainment- not the random guitar player(as yesterday) or other irregularly scheduled entertainer, but a set format, for example:
Curtis soloists or groups every Wed. at 1 PM, a series of local bands or groups every Tuesday from 12 to 2, etc. Once such entertainment is consistently presented, it can make this a destination, especially tied in with numbers 1 to 3 above.
Members of the Phila. Orch, Chamber Orch, or any of the many groups in the city with a one hour concert at regularly scheduled times.
Jazz musicians every Thursday at 3 PM.
It seems to me that there are probably many, many other ideas and I hope you are able to bring some of them to fruition.
Good luck with the project.
In West Virginia there is a stop on the turnpike called Tamarack. There displayed in an attractive environment are crafts and artwork produced by a juried selection of West Virginians. Basket makers, woodworkers, potters, weavers and more are represented. There are also some artist/craftspeople in residence producing their works at the site. My wife and I recently visited and after having an enjoyable time browsing, admiring, and buying these handmade creations we wondered why other states don't celebrate, market and support their craftspeople in a similar fashion.
Your article about the underutilized public space at the Kimmel got me thinking. What a great location this would be for an endeavor like that. Bringing arts and crafts from all over our state to a beautiful open indoor cosmopolitan space that is dedicated to the arts and creativity, built by and for the Commonwealth. It could be for arts and crafts what Reading Terminal Market is for food: A browsing and shopping destination for out-of-towners, conventioneers and locals alike. And just think what it would do to support craftspeople and artists of this state, bringing together patrons of the arts with the creations of Pennsylvania artists and craftsmen and women.
A purposeful permanent high quality arts and crafts market would bring people into the Kimmel at all times and finally make it a living and breathing ever-changing civil organism.
I attended the Kimmel Center session on 1/28 (and, in fact, talked to you about the Campus Inn which is the subject of all our fears and anxieties --more on that separately).
After reading Inga Saffron's article in today's Inky, I would like to make sure that some of the most "out of the box" ideas that I heard in our group don't get lost. As you pointed out, everybody insisted on connecting the inside and the outside. I had, or heard, some other ideas that I liked:
1. Stores that serve day-to-day needs --coffee (good coffee! I recommend the Accademia del Caff'e!), newspaper stands, flower stand, fruit stand-- would attract ordinary people IF THEY ARE VISIBLE. Someone suggested that a Visitors' Information Center should be placed in Commonwealth Plaza, for the volunteers are filling that role already. It's an excellent idea because tourists would come.
2. Invite art students to exhibit their work on light, moveable frames that can also hang from the ceiling. It does not matter if they are not GREAT art works. They would make students come and put color in that grim space. I also think the space needs banners, Mexican piñatas, all sorts of things to make it less immense. It needs greenery.
3. The same goes for the indispensable presence of musicians, even street musicians, and perhaps even theatre groups "advertising" their performances with lunch-time "excerpts."
4. A great idea from a young Japanese: make it into a winter garden, and have the paths of the Winter Garden --stones, for instance-- guide you toward the gates, rather than having cordons to control the line of concert-goers!
5. I do not like the idea of a fountain. It would ad to the coldness and dust of the place --has anyone noted how dusty those shallow decorative rims are?
That's all for now.
I had the honor of being in one of the PennPraxis groups a week ago Monday. It was an interesting experience. I had two ideas that were voiced, but didn't quite make it to paper.
The first was moving the gift shop to another location and replacing it with a high end deli of the type that the originator of Pastrami and Things, Kibbutz and the 4th Street Deli created. Hopefully you could get him to run it. Have it open from 7am to midnight.
The second, I'll admit, is a bit tacky but could be implemented rapidly and be low cost....put in a vending machine area. Make it so it could be blocked off during performance times.
There...that's my extra two cents. Thanks for keeping this in the public's eye.
I did send in some suggestions as a result of the Inquirer article, and I've read the selection of public comments from Chris' article. However, no one has mentioned the fact that the tiers on the tickets do not match the tiers where we enter! I've been to Verizon Hall many times and I still don't know where to enter for anything but the main floor.
Peggy J. Mahan
I'm pleased that there is action taking place to improve the Kimmel, and am in general agreement with the suggestions you have reported. More color, some plants, more comfortable seating, etc.
A few late specific suggestions:
The center needs to have restroom facilities on the first floor. Even without additional eating and drinking venues, having bathrooms hidden upstairs and down is definitely people unfriendly.
I know the architect refused to dirty his design with escalators, but they would be a wonderful addition. The stairway is impressive, but it is way too imposing for many patrons. The current elevators are tucked away and can be missed by many who could use the lift....The one in the back right corner is so far from an entrance that anyone wanting to get to the upper level for a concert would probably have to run to reach it in time.
So, I suggest some very visible, easily accessible escalators be added, on either side of or in place of some of the grand stair case.
Has anyone thought about a part glass elevator as a focal point and people mover? It takes too much time and effort for many to navigate the place. A centered glass elevator in an arboretum-like atmosphere with multiple height trees and plants would make it a much nicer place to be...
Some of the emptiness and ugliness would go away with a water feature---fountain or waterfall, again in the open, surrounded by park-like benches for people to just gaze. Nothing seems to gather and keep a crowd like watching water.
Seating---I vote for a mix of chairs and sofas, in different areas to meet different tastes and needs. Everything does not need to be identical. For practical reasons, I would suggest at least some sturdy chairs, with arms, high backs and higher seating for the many people with knee and back problems. They are not all old. Stick some soft and cozy loungers for the Starbucks "sink into a chair with a laptop" crowd, but don't forget the rest.
And please, completely dump the round, low things that are there now, or place them in a designated child care section for climbing toddlers. How often have you seen real people sitting on them?