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.” Inside, four seating levels are capable of hosting over 2,700 people for opera, ballet, orchestra, vocal, Broadway, and other live performances and events. A careful renovation of the historic theater involved replacing all of the seats while also making targeted alterations to improve the audience experience.

VMA worked closely with the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, owner and operator of the Academy, and other stakeholders to replace the theater’s decades-old seating while phasing the work to accommodate a busy production schedule. The goal was to improve quality and accessibility with only minimal reduction of capacity. Using a laser scan of the auditorium to create a three-dimensional model of the space, we were able to work with the sloping, skewed, and irregular configurations of the seating areas to identify locations where new wheelchair accessible spaces could be provided to meet current code requirements. Additional railings, new aisle lighting, and reconfigured aisle steps in key locations will eliminate awkward conditions and improve the experience of getting patrons to and from their seats, all while retaining its classic historic appearance.


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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