Kurtz Performing Arts Center

William Penn Charter School | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

William Penn Charter School sought to achieve professional-grade results within their new performing arts facility, which would be situated on a highly prominent campus site. The donors wished the building to serve the school community and the larger community surrounding the campus. 

VMA designed the facade of the new building to replicate the adjacent historic Main Building in materiality, scale, and fenestration, enlivened by a contemporary, two-story columned front with floor-to-ceiling glass that glows on performance nights. 

Interior materials like slate ensure an attractive appearance but also durability, able to withstand daily use by students. A 650-seat proscenium theater features two levels of balcony seating – yet, with the furthest seat from the stage only 55 feet away, it creates a connection between audience and performer that helps to build confidence in young performers.

Above the stage, three student-safe catwalks accommodate lighting. A fully-accessible control room houses sound and projections systems. Rigging permits scenes to fly, allowing students to learn the art of theater production in a safe and manageable facility. The orchestra pit lift, at its highest position, acts as a stage trust but can be lowered for performance with a full orchestra. Lastly, the building’s performance space is supported by a full set design/construction shop, dressing rooms, costume & instrument storage, and music practice rooms, some of which are designed to serve as performance venues themselves.

A 10,000 sf green roof captures storm water, reduces the heat island effect, and provides additional thermal and sound insulation while protecting the  roof membrane. Daylighting and views were integrated into virtually all spaces but the theater itself. The team utilized local materials for almost 25% of construction. Taken together, these steps earned the building LEED Gold Certification.


LEED Gold Certified
United States Institute of Theater Technology, Architecture Merit Award, 2012
Architectural Woodwork Institute, National Award of Excellence, 2010
Association of Builders and Contractors Southeast Pennsylvania Chapter, Award for Excellence in Construction, 2010
Philadelphia Business Journal, Best Real Estate Deal, 2010


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Size: 30,000 sf
Budget: $15 million


Architecture, Interior Design, Landscape, Sustainability

Kurtz Performing Arts Center

William Penn Charter School | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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