The Metropolitan Opera House in Philadelphia has had a rough history. Built in 1908 as one of the largest venues of its kind, the building survived two fires and sat vacant from 1988 until 1995, having been saved from demolition in 1994.
Twenty years later, a new owner, Eric Blumenfeld Realty Management, assembled a project team for a $56 million rehabilitation project to return the project to its former luster and create a 3,400-seat concert hall and special events center.
The exterior renovation focused on stabilizing and repairing the white brick and stucco building envelope. Many of the masonry features had crumbled, and the removal of the cornice had created structural problems. The cornice was accurately replicated with the help of historic photographs. New wood windows and storefronts replaced the originals with matching profiles. Large wood entry doors on Poplar Street were restored.
To support the building’s role as a live music venue, the team recreated signage that had been added to the building in 1928 when the Opera House was converted to a movie theater. A large metal rooftop sign and a large metal blade sign were replicated and placed in their original location at the northeast corner of the building.
The interior underwent a more dramatic renovation. After withstanding years of water infiltration and exposure to the freeze-thaw cycle, much of the ornamental plasterwork was damaged. Where possible, the plasterwork was preserved; where it was missing or heavily damaged, it was replaced to match. The coffered ceiling was also restored via a combination of preservation and replacement. Original terrazzo floors and mosaic tile border in the newly enlarged lobby were also salvaged and restored.
The Philadelphia Metropolitan Opera House, before renovation. Photo: Hugh L. Loomis Architectural/Industrial Photography.
New MEP and air-conditioning systems were installed and concealed to make the facility comfortable for concertgoers. Fire sprinklers and a smoke evacuation system were added to meet building and life-safety codes. A full kitchen was added in the basement. For the final touch, the auditorium itself was upgraded with new seating, lighting, sound systems, restrooms, back-of-house spaces, and a variety of bars and gathering spaces for concertgoers.
The completed project took a structure that was once a symbol of urban decline and turned it into a catalyst for further development along Philadelphia’s North Broad Street corridor.
BRONZE AWARD WINNER
BUILDING TEAM Atkin Olshin Schade Architects (submitting firm, architect) Eric Blumenfeld Realty Management (owner) L Studio (interior designer) David Chou & Associates (SE) Concord Engineering Group (MEP) Domus Construction (CM) DETAILS 136,000 sf Total cost $56 million Construction time May 2015 to March 2019 Delivery method CM at risk