High above Broad Street, in the shadow of Philadelphia’s City Hall, the French aerial troupe La Compagnie Transe Express, closed out the month long Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. Crowds had gathered on the closed-off street to enjoy an otherwise beautiful Saturday street fair and eagerly anticipated the dusk performance.

Just off the street, on Locust across from the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, sat a large construction crane, but that night it would hoist no ordinary payload; rather, it would lift a weird trapeze contraption with fold out appendages for the suspension of eight percussionists. With their eerie bell tolls and erratic drumbeat, four additional aerialists performed from swings, hanging, while the entire contraption was lifted several hundred feet and slowly twirled.

We were fortunate to see the spectacle from an otherwise useless balcony on an upper deck of the Kimmel Center that overlooks the section of Broad Street known as the Avenue of the Arts. Designed by world renowned architect Raphael Vinoly, this center has been the home to the Philadelphia Orchestra since late 2001.

Under a large glass archway that looks like New York’s World Financial Center’s Winter Garden on steroids are two boxes containing the performance spaces. While the acoustics and interior of the concert halls are wonderful, the public atrium is sterile and underutilized.

Fortunately Philadelphia’s local starchitects Kieran-Timberlake will soon be reinvigorating the lower levels with their new master plan. Till then, however, the temporary installation of a mini illuminated Eiffel tower and suspended train-n-plane show, will be the only architectural feature worth visiting without a ticket to a show.
Tags: look-up, philadelphia
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