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street view of Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts building with two story blue and orange paint brush sculpture outside
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

19th-Century Landmark for 21st-Century Art Education

Project Location

Philadelphia, PA

Program

Galleries, curatorial/research areas, library, auditorium, studios

Services

Master planning, architecture, engineering, interiors, preservation

Awards

AIA Cleveland, 2020 Merit Award Interior Architecture

The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is an art school and museum comprising two historic buildings – the 1876 Landmark Building and the adjacent 1916 Hamilton Building, which was once an automobile assembly facility. The Landmark Building, designed by renowned Philadelphia architects Frank Furness and George Hewitt, is the first structure in the U.S. specifically designed for fine arts instruction and exhibition in a consolidated facility.

Considered one the finest examples of late Victorian architecture, the Landmark Building had been maintained and stabilized but had not been altered from the original function or architectural condition. Our master plan and subsequent renovation accommodates a growing program within a fixed site, consolidates inefficient support spaces and administrative functions, develops new assembly spaces, and reinforces the image and culture of the institution to the public, all while preserving PAFA’s historic structures. A key principle of the work is to expose the processes of art-making, collecting, and exhibiting for both students and the wider community. We provided master planning; architecture; interiors; electrical and mechanical engineering; acoustics, audiovisual; information transport; life safety & security, lighting; preservation; and theater technical design services.

Elements

Our master plan and subsequent renovation accommodates a growing program within a fixed site, consolidates inefficient support spaces and administrative functions, develops new assembly spaces, and reinforces the image and culture of the institution to the public, all while preserving PAFA’s historic structures.

01
Research

Center for the Study of the American Artist

The Center for the Study of the American Artist combines several program elements on a single 20,000-SF floorplate, including an enhanced library, labs for a new illustration program, a digitization lab, group study areas, a comprehensive collection research suite, computer lab, printing lab, and a 6,000-SF cool storage archive.

Library with round couch in forefront, tables with reading lamps, shelves of books in back, and lined with table of computers

The Fine Arts Library Reading Room

02
Art Preservation

Safeguarding the Collection

PAFA is the steward of a significant collection of American art. The preservation index for works on paper in the cool storage is estimated to be over 3-times that of a typical Class AA condition, utilized for higher-end art museums. The cool storage facility increases PAFA’s ability to borrow art for scholarly research and improves its overall institutional reputation.

In a storage room for flat artworks to either lay in drawers or hang on movable wall, a man has pulled out a storage wall

Cool storage for works on paper.

03
Auditorium

Hamilton Building – Rhoden Arts Center

The 18,000-SF John and Richanda Rhoden Arts Center created in previously unfinished space in the Hamilton Building lower level includes an auditorium, gallery, and collections storage vault. The auditorium features 265 fixed seats and state-of-the-art audiovisual systems that accommodate music and dance performances, lectures, film screenings, and other events. An electro-acoustical system simulates the acoustics of a much larger space and allows for unamplified classical music performances.

Rows of empty red and wood seats face stage with textural wood walls, lit pockets for art on grey walls near audience seats

Flexible music, lecture, and performance auditorium.

04
Gallery

Art on Display

Adjacent to the auditorium is the Ann Bryan Gallery. The gallery space is a flexible space that accommodates a variety of artwork, including painting, sculpture, and digital art. A reconfigured monumental staircase connects this gallery space to galleries on the first and second floors.

White art gallery with light color hardwood flooring and stairs with black base leading upstairs. Art is on white pedestal

The Ann Bryan Gallery for student art.

Design Award

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