July 30, 2014

Volver Restaurant Debuts at Kimmel Center

The new Volver restaurant, in the space of the former gift shop, accomplishes goals of the Master Plan for the Kimmel Center by engaging with the activity at street level via a transparent wall. 
© Barry Halkin

Renovation work at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in the heart of Philadelphia's cultural district is nearing completion, and Volver restaurant, operated by chef Jose Garces, has recently opened. KieranTimberlake is responsible for designing the new space, with Marguerite Rodgers leading interior design for the restaurant.  
The new Volver restaurant is located at the site of the former gift shop. Entered directly from the street or from within the Kimmel Center, the dining room and bar face Spruce Street, with fully glass walls extending into the sidewalk to engage the streetscape and enliven the presence of the building. With interiors by the designers for nationally-acclaimed restaurants Fork, Lacroix, Striped Bass, and XIX, it is an inviting, urbane space that incorporates bespoke furnishings, cabinetry, and artwork by local craftspeople to create the intricately detailed atmosphere that Marguerite Rodgers is known for.

Once a solid brick facade, the glazed walls along Spruce Street make visible the vital programming at the Kimmel Center, including the black box theater known as Innovation Studio and the performance kitchen at Volver. 
© Barry Halkin

Themes of craft, travel, and the art of cooking are woven throughout the restaurant, reflected in exquisite details such as a woven wood lamp by David Trubridge, custom furnishings and cabinetry by Marguerite Rogers Editions, and a rotating gallery of Jose Garces' travel photographs. Central to the experience are works by local artists, including a wall sculpture by Jessica Drenk, a commissioned painting by Sabine Friesicke, a pair of carved wood painted panels by Darrell Copeland, and a textile art installation by Conrad Booker.

A lounge at the front of the space offers a more casual dining option, with continued transparency along Spruce Street and views to the city.  
© Barry Halkin

Local artists supplied many of the interior furnishings, including this textile art installation by Conrad Booker, a Philadelphia designer and artist.  
© Barry Halkin

Other changes to the Kimmel Center are visible along Spruce Street, where a new glass entry vestibule welcomes visitors to the Innovation Studio, the black box theater located below Commonwealth Plaza between Perelman and Verizon Halls. Over time, the theater—originally planned as a rehearsal space—has emerged as a key venue for presenting a range of performances of different scales and diverse audiences, but has remained largely unknown in its subterranean location.  
The new glazed vestibule establishes the presence of the theater at street level and within Commonwealth Plaza, while enlivening the streetscape. Made with 22-foot tall structural glass panels that display changeable, large-scale graphics, the vestibule adds interest to the existing blank brick wall surface, announcing the location of the theater and illustrating the activity within.

With open views into the kitchen and out to the street, diners experience both the preparations by the master chefs and the life of the city.  
© Barry Halkin

The two projects are part of a 2009 Master Plan developed by KieranTimberlake to transform the Kimmel Center's existing public spaces into active, inviting spaces at all times of the day and year. Following a vision plan for the Kimmel Center completed by PennPraxis in 2008, KieranTimberlake outlined a comprehensive, phased Master Plan for improvements, which included Hamilton Rooftop Garden, Innovation Studio, and a new restaurant, among other physical adjustments. The Master Plan envisions the Kimmel Center as a vibrant, extroverted building with glass walls at its perimeter, allowing a direct relationship with the life of the surrounding city.

A custom-made screen separates the lounge from the more formal dining room beyond. The hall that connects the two spaces includes a floor-to-ceiling wine display as well as travel photographs by Chef Jose Garces and an open pantry.  
© Barry Halkin

Principal Richard Maimon commented, “The Kimmel Center is known for its iconic glass vault, but the building is actually quite opaque at street level. The restaurant and Innovation Studio projects begin the master plan goal of creating transparency and encouraging activity.” 
Along with the Dorrance H. Hamilton Rooftop Garden, redesigned by BLT Architects in 2012, these changes are among the first Master Plan initiatives to be implemented. Additional Master Plan initiatives will be constructed as funds are raised.