Contract - Classic Bach: KlingStubbins restores the Academy of Music in Philadelphia

design - features - institutional design



Classic Bach: KlingStubbins restores the Academy of Music in Philadelphia

09 September, 2010

-By Amy Milshtein


When it opened in 1857, the Academy of Music in Philadelphia was a sight to behold. The “Grand Old Lady of Locust Street” hosted many important performances and renowned artists over the years. It is, in fact, America’s oldest opera house still used for its original purpose. Within the opera house sits the ballroom, described as “the most beautiful room in Philadelphia” at its opening. The ballroom held social events, performances, parties, and rallies, yet a scant decade later, it suffered through its first alteration—one of many to come over the years until the space looked tired, out of proportion, and literally green around the gills.

Restoring the room was on the Academy of Music’s (AOM) to-do list, along with lots of other actionable items. But it wasn’t until Leonore Annenberg, renowned philanthropist, civic leader, and long-time patron of the Academy, tired of the room’s green-tinged glow that restoration became a real possibility. “We pitched the idea of restoring the room, and she went for it,” recalls Joanna Lewis, chairman, president, and CEO of the Academy of Music.

Over the years, for reasons unknown, the room was altered considerably. The gaslight fixtures were removed and the only windows and exterior doors were walled over. The 1920s brought faceted mirrors to cover every door and tympanum. The walls and ceiling were painted a beige/grey color in the 1940s, and strip fluorescent lighting came in the 1960s. Underfoot sat what Annenberg referred to as “an unfortunate choice of carpet.”

The building, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, had plenty of documentation of its original design and subsequent alterations from the Academy itself along with the Philadelphia Historical Commission, The Pennsylvania Historical Society, and The Athenaeum of Philadelphia. But perhaps the most exciting document was a photo from 1860 that was scanned and enhanced with advanced computer software. “Using this [technology] I could zoom in on details and count the number of crystals on each chandelier,” says John Trosino, senior associate at KlingStubbins. “Written descriptions and etchings depend a lot on the author and artist. Were they embellishing? Did they leave something out? What was their mood when they captured the room? The photograph can be completely relied on as truth.”

Along with the photograph and documents, the Trosino and his staff painstakingly scraped and analyzed layers of paint for two months to determine the original pattern, color scheme, and the reason the paint failed. “The colors look dark in the picture, but that is more a function of the photographic technology of the time than the actual paint palette,” explains Trosino.

They also found a leaking roof, which added unexpected costs to the project, remembers Lewis. Determined to do the job right and in one phase the AOM raised more money so the project now includes a new standing seam metal roof, flashing, and rain water conductors to eliminate the persistent leaks into the room. Replacement doors and windows feature meticulously concealed weatherproofing seals within their faithfully historic profiles.

With paint patterns and colors rediscovered, restoration work could begin in earnest. Four of the five original stained-glass windows in the transoms were unearthed fully protected. The fifth was faithfully reproduced. More than 100 different paint colors were used to create the intricate trompe-l’oeil that decorates the walls throughout.

The original lights, designed and manufactured by Cornelius and Baker, were reproduced using written descriptions and pictorial documents, as well as one surviving fixture that was located elsewhere in the facility. Hanging the fixtures accurately required some advanced mathematics. “I would stand in the room from where that original photograph was taken and with that photo in my hand calculate the location of each chandelier,” recalls Trosino.

The room does include something new. Even though the original floor was wood, the Pennsylvania Historical Commission gave permission to design a carpet for the space. Gone was the “unfortunate” floorcovering of before, replaced with a magnificent piece manufactured by renowned British carpet maker Brintons. Incorporating the musical imagery found in the rest of the room, the carpet took four months to draw and program before the loom could begin to weave it.

The entire project took more than 12 months, a hardship for the AOM as the room is in continual demand. But all agree the results are worth the wait. Unfortunately, Annenberg, who was the room’s main benefactor, died before the project was completed. A memorial tribute was held for her on the day the room reopened.

Saying goodbye to the project was especially difficult for Trosino. “For designers there is always separation anxiety, but this one was different,” he says. “I know it sounds ridiculous to say that you've fallen in love with a building, but it's clearly possible. You become consumed with the research and the discovery, uncovering and exposing a design lost long ago. The building and the process has a romantic quality that is captivating. You feel emotionally connected to restoring and preserving the design thinking of the original architects and craftsmen. This project was a gift from God. I can’t imagine my life without the experience.”


who
Project: Academy of Music Owner: The Academy of Music/The Philadelphia Orchestra. Architect: KlingStubbins; John Trosino, senior associate; Richard Mark, partner; Alice Ardito, Linda Hockenbury, Debra Aungst, Shane Strickler, Maryn Gemgnani, Sherri Smith, Andrew Derrickson, Craig Barbieri, Jacalyn Pollack. Contractor: LF Driscoll, Co. Consultants: Arnold Wood Conservation. Lighting: Horton Lees Brogden. MEP Engineering: PHY Engineers. Structural: Keast & Hood Co. Photographer: Tom Crane.

what

Paint: ICI Paints. Hardware: Ball and Ball. Carpet: Brintons USA. Decorative painting/conservation: John Canning Painting & Conservation Studios. Lighting: Mathieu Lustrerie (chandeliers, sconces), Starfire Lighting, Inc. (cove). Glass Reproduction & Conservation: The Art of Glass, Femenella and Associates. Window treatments: Lutron. Architectural woodworking: Artistic Doors and Windows.

where

Location: Philadelphia, PA.



Classic Bach: KlingStubbins restores the Academy of Music in Philadelphia

09 September, 2010


Tom Crane

When it opened in 1857, the Academy of Music in Philadelphia was a sight to behold. The “Grand Old Lady of Locust Street” hosted many important performances and renowned artists over the years. It is, in fact, America’s oldest opera house still used for its original purpose. Within the opera house sits the ballroom, described as “the most beautiful room in Philadelphia” at its opening. The ballroom held social events, performances, parties, and rallies, yet a scant decade later, it suffered through its first alteration—one of many to come over the years until the space looked tired, out of proportion, and literally green around the gills.

Restoring the room was on the Academy of Music’s (AOM) to-do list, along with lots of other actionable items. But it wasn’t until Leonore Annenberg, renowned philanthropist, civic leader, and long-time patron of the Academy, tired of the room’s green-tinged glow that restoration became a real possibility. “We pitched the idea of restoring the room, and she went for it,” recalls Joanna Lewis, chairman, president, and CEO of the Academy of Music.

Over the years, for reasons unknown, the room was altered considerably. The gaslight fixtures were removed and the only windows and exterior doors were walled over. The 1920s brought faceted mirrors to cover every door and tympanum. The walls and ceiling were painted a beige/grey color in the 1940s, and strip fluorescent lighting came in the 1960s. Underfoot sat what Annenberg referred to as “an unfortunate choice of carpet.”

The building, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, had plenty of documentation of its original design and subsequent alterations from the Academy itself along with the Philadelphia Historical Commission, The Pennsylvania Historical Society, and The Athenaeum of Philadelphia. But perhaps the most exciting document was a photo from 1860 that was scanned and enhanced with advanced computer software. “Using this [technology] I could zoom in on details and count the number of crystals on each chandelier,” says John Trosino, senior associate at KlingStubbins. “Written descriptions and etchings depend a lot on the author and artist. Were they embellishing? Did they leave something out? What was their mood when they captured the room? The photograph can be completely relied on as truth.”

Along with the photograph and documents, the Trosino and his staff painstakingly scraped and analyzed layers of paint for two months to determine the original pattern, color scheme, and the reason the paint failed. “The colors look dark in the picture, but that is more a function of the photographic technology of the time than the actual paint palette,” explains Trosino.

They also found a leaking roof, which added unexpected costs to the project, remembers Lewis. Determined to do the job right and in one phase the AOM raised more money so the project now includes a new standing seam metal roof, flashing, and rain water conductors to eliminate the persistent leaks into the room. Replacement doors and windows feature meticulously concealed weatherproofing seals within their faithfully historic profiles.

With paint patterns and colors rediscovered, restoration work could begin in earnest. Four of the five original stained-glass windows in the transoms were unearthed fully protected. The fifth was faithfully reproduced. More than 100 different paint colors were used to create the intricate trompe-l’oeil that decorates the walls throughout.

The original lights, designed and manufactured by Cornelius and Baker, were reproduced using written descriptions and pictorial documents, as well as one surviving fixture that was located elsewhere in the facility. Hanging the fixtures accurately required some advanced mathematics. “I would stand in the room from where that original photograph was taken and with that photo in my hand calculate the location of each chandelier,” recalls Trosino.

The room does include something new. Even though the original floor was wood, the Pennsylvania Historical Commission gave permission to design a carpet for the space. Gone was the “unfortunate” floorcovering of before, replaced with a magnificent piece manufactured by renowned British carpet maker Brintons. Incorporating the musical imagery found in the rest of the room, the carpet took four months to draw and program before the loom could begin to weave it.

The entire project took more than 12 months, a hardship for the AOM as the room is in continual demand. But all agree the results are worth the wait. Unfortunately, Annenberg, who was the room’s main benefactor, died before the project was completed. A memorial tribute was held for her on the day the room reopened.

Saying goodbye to the project was especially difficult for Trosino. “For designers there is always separation anxiety, but this one was different,” he says. “I know it sounds ridiculous to say that you've fallen in love with a building, but it's clearly possible. You become consumed with the research and the discovery, uncovering and exposing a design lost long ago. The building and the process has a romantic quality that is captivating. You feel emotionally connected to restoring and preserving the design thinking of the original architects and craftsmen. This project was a gift from God. I can’t imagine my life without the experience.”


who
Project: Academy of Music Owner: The Academy of Music/The Philadelphia Orchestra. Architect: KlingStubbins; John Trosino, senior associate; Richard Mark, partner; Alice Ardito, Linda Hockenbury, Debra Aungst, Shane Strickler, Maryn Gemgnani, Sherri Smith, Andrew Derrickson, Craig Barbieri, Jacalyn Pollack. Contractor: LF Driscoll, Co. Consultants: Arnold Wood Conservation. Lighting: Horton Lees Brogden. MEP Engineering: PHY Engineers. Structural: Keast & Hood Co. Photographer: Tom Crane.

what

Paint: ICI Paints. Hardware: Ball and Ball. Carpet: Brintons USA. Decorative painting/conservation: John Canning Painting & Conservation Studios. Lighting: Mathieu Lustrerie (chandeliers, sconces), Starfire Lighting, Inc. (cove). Glass Reproduction & Conservation: The Art of Glass, Femenella and Associates. Window treatments: Lutron. Architectural woodworking: Artistic Doors and Windows.

where

Location: Philadelphia, PA.
 


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