PlanPhilly

Re-Envisioning the Kimmel Center through Civic Engagement and Design (student process book)

Project Overview

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts hired PennPraxis and the Penn Project on Civic Engagement in 2008 to lead a citizen-driven design process on ways to energize and activate public spaces in and around the Kimmel.

Though one of Philadelphia's grandest and most significant arts assets, the Kimmel has not become the democratic destination and generator of 18-hour public activity it pledged to be when it opened in late 2001. This planning process sought to create principles for public space development that will be the foundation of a design process that yields multiple concepts for re-energizing the Kimmel Center's exterior and interior public spaces.

The Design Principles developed by citizens in January served as the basis for their work.

Process and Public Outreach

The process kicked off with a series of public forums, led by the Penn Project on Civic Engagement. This work was combined with feedback received online and through the Philadelphia Inquirer to create principles for design that were the foundation for work conducted by University of Pennsylvania (undergraduate architecture and fine arts) and University of the Arts (undergraduate and graduate industrial and exhibit design) students in their Spring 2008 semester.

Click here to view the overview presentation given at the public forums describing the civic engagement work and outlining best practices for public space design.

Here was the forum schedule:

Wednesday, January 23, 6:00pm - 9:00pm

Sunday, January 27, 1:00pm - 4:00pm

Monday, January 28, 12:00pm - 3:00pm

Wednesday, January 30, 6:00pm - 9:00pm

All forums were covered by PlanPhilly. Videos of each session are posted above. The photo slideshow above shows the Kimmel public space.

Over 200 citizens participated. Moderators who facilitated the discussions submitted reports summarizing the citizen work, which can be found here.


The public forum discussions and other civic feedback were consolidated by the Penn Project for Civic Engagement into design principles. The principles serve as the basis of the work done by studio groups from the University of the Arts and University of Pennsylvania, who are looking at design solutions in different and interesting ways. The two student groups will coordinate work throughout the Spring 2008 semester.

PennPraxis organized a Civic Feedback Session on April 14, where it presented initial design concepts and engaged citizens about how well preliminary design work matches the principles.

Presentation and Student Design Ideas

The Penn undergraduate design studio working on the Kimmel public spaces divided into three groups by theme. Click below to view their display boards and digital presentations of their ideas presented to the public on April 14.

Introduction display board, presentation

University of the Arts interior display board, exterior display board

Penn Group 1: "Humanize" display board, presentation

Penn Group 2: "Connect to the Arts" display board, presentation

Penn Group 3: "Sensory Experience" display board, presentation

Ideas from the UArts students were integrated into the Penn student presentations.

Civic Feedback

Feedback from participants was collected in two different ways: through a Feedback Form distributed that evening, and through facilitated discussion groups. Click here to view all the feedback, from the Civic Feedback Session as well as the January forums.

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