Kurtz Performing Arts Center

William Penn Charter School | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Kurtz Performing Arts Center at William Penn Charter School offers students top-notch education in theater and other performing arts within a professional-grade facility situated on a prominent campus site. The design is inspired by the adjacent historic main building in terms of the overall materiality, scale, and much of the fenestration. It is enlivened, however, by a contemporary two-story columned front with floor-to-ceiling glass that glows on performance nights, reinforcing the drama of anticipation as guests enter into the building. Interior materials like slate were chosen both for their looks and their ability to withstand daily use by students.

A 650-seat proscenium theater features two levels of balconies and, with the furthest seat from stage only 55 feet away, creates a feeling of intimacy and connection between performer and audience even with a full house. Above, three student-safe catwalks accommodate stage lighting. A fully-accessible control room houses sound and projection 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 performances with a full orchestra. The building’s performance space is supported by a full set design/construction shop, dressing rooms, costume & instrument storage, as well as music practice rooms, some of which were designed to serve as performance venues themselves.

The building’s sustainable elements, which enabled it to achieve LEED Gold Certification, enhance its design. A 10,000 sf green roof captures storm water, reduces the heat island effect, and provides additional thermal and sound insulation while also protecting the roof membrane. Daylighting and views are in all spaces but the theater, and embodied energy of the building was further reduced by utilizing local materials for almost 25% of the building.


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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