Seating Replacement & Accessibility Improvements

Academy of Music | Kimmel Center, Inc. | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Built in 1857, the Academy of Music is a National Historic Landmark that has been described as “one of the most treasured and legendary theaters in the world.” Necessary seating and accessibility improvements had to be accomplished while accommodating a busy production schedule. When VMA joined the project, the team launched a careful intervention that would meet the client’s goals for redesigned seating with only minimal reduction in the hall’s capacity.

Using a laser scan of the hall to create a three-dimensional model of the space, we were able to work with the sloping, skewed, and irregular configurations of the four tiers of seating to identify locations where new wheelchair-accessible spaces could be provided to meet or exceed current code requirements. All of the seats were replaced. Additional railings, new aisle lighting, and reconfigured aisle steps in key locations eliminated awkward conditions and improved the experience of getting patrons to and from their seats. Crucially, our design reflected the classic historic appearance of one of the world’s most beloved venues for opera, ballet, orchestra, vocal, and Broadway productions. The aisle seats have carefully designed side panels drawn from elements of the space’s historic details. 


Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, Grand Jury Award, 2021


  • "Best Seats in the House" by Peter Dobrin. The Philadelphia Inquirer, 13 July 2018.
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Size: 2,750 seats
Budget: $3 million


Architecture, Interior Design, Historical Preservation

Seating Replacement & Accessibility Improvements

Academy of Music | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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