[Image: Approaching the Kimmel Center from Hicks street]
THE KIMMEL CENTER
The emergence of the Kimmel Center out of the sidewalk like a giant fortified greenhouse is a disconcerting surprise. The appearance of the Kimmel center among the surrounding brick apartments and shops is as unexpected as a lone tulip growing in a field of daisies. The massive brick base crowned by the vast vaulted roof dwarf the surrounding rowhouses. The classic university of the arts next door and the gothic church across the street seem similarly stunted in comparision. Although the exterior is a bit forbidding and alien, the interior is a dynamic collection of spaces filled with filtered natural light.
[Image: Approaching the Kimmel Center]
[Image: View from roof garden]
I remember the first time I saw the Kimmel center. I was returning from a trip to Redding Terminal Market with my friends Julie and Elise on a summer Sunday. I happened to glance up and was surprised to see the tips of trees peering over a protruding awning. Rooftop Gardens have a persistant appeal for me. I think its the novelty of something out of place, the satisfaction of knowing a secret and the rush of seeing the city from up high. I am usually willing to go out of my way to get up, a fence to jump over or a ladder to climb add to the elicit seduction. In the case of the Kimmel Center, no clandestine manuovers were required, as it is open to the public. It did however require a bit of a scavenger hunt. A small sign directs visitors down a curved passage. At the end of the passage, in a dark corner, is an elevator to the roof. The Dorrance H Hamilton roof garden turned out to be a bit underwhelming and actually fairly unpleasant. The pleated roof lets in a pretty filtered light and the views of the city through the lattice are beautiful. However, The few trees were neatly potted and the sticky heat made it hard to breathe and drove us out in under a minute. The minor difficulty in accessing the garden lends it an secretive air which I think is ultimately a worthwhile asset, but it still requires ambiance, character and an air conditioner.
[Image: Approaching the Dorrance H Hamilton roof garden]
[Image: Seating In the folds of the roof]
The second time I visited the Kimmel Center was for a matinee dance performance. Elise and I arrived around 2 on a spring Sunday. Rennie Harris was presenting a hiphop piece called Heaven. The performance featured 8 female leads and a tragicly romantic Japanse motif. The dancing was fantastic, but the house was far from packed. The price was amazing as well, our tickets were a mere $10 (this was the student rush fee, regular tickets started at $35). The inside of the kimmel is like a miny city unto itself with alleys, rooftops and courtyards to be explored. The theatres are like objects loosely dropped into a glass box. The loose arrangement of shapes creates an interesting dispersion of interstitial spaces. For example on the third floor the glass vault collides with the rectangular base. The folds of the roof create a array of alcoves. A pair of security guards were taking a break at one of the tables tucked between the pleats. Sitting at one of the tables ourselves we could look up and see the sky. We still felt connected to the vast lobby space, the chatter of the crowd and notes from the piano player drifted up to us, but we were visually separate from the activities below and felt peacefully isolated. The vast, naturally lit lobby flows between the theatres and is just asking to be filled with art installations. The irregular arrangement of volumes creates interesting variety and invites exploration.
[Image: Views inside the Kimmel]
Since the Kimmel opened there have been an slew of complaints about the fortified brick walls, barren interior, broiling temps, lack of vibe, hard to find restrooms. Certainly these are all valid, but there are a lot of charming and interesting aspects to the building as well. Kieren and Timberlake a local architecture firm, have recently released a master plan to revitilize the center and create stronger connections to the street, with the hopes of drawing in a younger crowd. BTL architects has also designed a glass enclosure to help cool down the garden. For more information on these plans look at the post I wrote called Kimmel Revisited. Also check out the articles by the inquirer: