Kimmel Center Completes Dorrance H. Hamilton Rooftop Garden Renovation

By: Aug. 31, 2012

After a year-long renovation, the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts reopens The Dorrance H. Hamilton Rooftop Garden to the public on September 4, 2012. The state-of-the-art rooftop garden renovation cost $5.7 million, and will be open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with free public tours available when the garden is not being used for private functions.

Replete with a new acoustically isolated hardwood maple floor encompassing 6,200 square feet, the Hamilton Rooftop Garden is a high tech, multi-purpose space for special events, corporate meetings, dinner parties and receptions that comfortably seats 200 guests. The garden is newly equipped with theatrical lighting at each of its four corners to accommodate any festive celebration, as well as LED lighting for stunning visual effects to be viewed by passersby along the Avenue of the Arts.

“We are thrilled to announce the reopening of The Dorrance H. Hamilton Rooftop Garden,” said Kimmel Center President and CEO Anne Ewers. “The Hamilton Rooftop Garden is a true gem. Its unique location atop the Perelman Theater allows all to stay connected to Philadelphia’s vibrant performing arts scene, while enjoying the grand architectural design of the Kimmel Center and city views. We look forward to utilizing the rooftop garden as an additional performance space, and the increased revenue streams its rentals will provide.”

One of the Hamilton Rooftop Garden’s enhanced features is its new acoustically treated glass box structure, which provides quality year-round climate and sound control for rental use of the space, and continues to showcase unparalleled views of the Kimmel Center’s glass vaulted dome, venues and public spaces, and of Philadelphia’s bustling Avenue of the Arts.

“It was important to us that the rooftop garden retain its openness and elevation above the Perelman Theater while we repurposed the space,” said Kimmel Center President and CEO Anne Ewers. “Its hot, uncomfortable environment from May through September forced the Kimmel Center to turn away over 1000 annual rental inquiries per year.”

BLT Architects delivered the goods: the garden’s glass paneled ceiling is an example of wondrous, modern technology—with the flip of a switch, literally, the electro-chromic glass from SAGE transforms from fully transparent to fully tinted to reduce the amount of sunlight entering the space for more efficient climate control. The process takes five minutes, the resulting effects warrant a cool, garden oasis with no heating issues.

“SAGE is pleased to be part of this exciting renovation of one of Philadelphia's treasures," said Derek Malmquist, vice president of marketing at SAGE. "SageGlass® was the ideal fit for the architects' vision for this project because of its ability to control the incoming sunlight while maintaining the wonderful openness of the space. SageGlass will help transform how patrons experience the Hamilton Rooftop Garden any time of the year.”

BLT Architects was also charged with creating a design that allowed the rooftop garden to function for weddings and alternate uses of the space, without interfering with performances inside the Perelman Theater from its resident companies. “Envisioned as a critical component in the Master Plan by KieranTimberlake architects, the Hamilton Rooftop Garden renovation moved to the top of our list and in 2010, we engaged BLT Architects,” adds Ewers.

“The Kimmel Center is a thriving urban arts and culture center, and The Dorrance H. Hamilton Rooftop Garden is its crowning feature,” said Michael Prifti, principal at BLT Architects. “We are thrilled to have been a part of the project and incredibly proud of the result.”

With the expert guidance of Threshold Acoustics LLC, BLT Architects’ redesign addressed the acoustic challenge of the location above Perelman Theater by introducing 300 tons of concrete poured on the support of 124 acoustic isolation springs to isolate vibration and sound infiltrating the Theater below. In addition, sound absorptive panels and porous, visually-transparent surfaces within the Hamilton Rooftop Garden create a pleasant internal environment within the glass box structure for concerts, parties and receptions.

Additional design features include two porch areas anchoring the East and West sides of the rooftop garden, which may serve as lovely accompaniment for cocktail hours or drinks before or after a concert.

And Food Network star Iron Chef Jose Garces has his own preparation area on the rooftop garden, which is 800 square feet, and accommodates opportunities to book private dinner parties several nights a week. An American chef born to Ecuadorian parents, Garces is the exclusive caterer and concessions food provider for all events on the Kimmel Center’s campus. Garces Catering’s menus features seasonal American fare incorporating his customary bold flavors and artful culinary techniques into each dish. To view Garces Catering’s menus,

FREE Tours of the Hamilton Rooftop Garden are available Tuesday through Sunday at 1 p.m. For more information on the public tours, visit the information desk in the Kimmel Center’s Commonwealth Plaza or call 215-790-5886 to make a reservation.


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