December 16, 2005
On a Friday night
in December 2001, Philadelphians gathered to celebrate the
opening of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the
new home for its beloved Philadelphia Orchestra. But four
years after the opening, the center is struggling to remain
afloat beneath the burden of a $30 million bank loan debt;
$23 million from construction overruns and $7 million from
To help alleviate
the issue, the Philadelphia Regional Performing Arts Center,
which manages the Kimmel, is suing the buildings architect,
New York-based Rafael Viñoly Architects (RVA), over
what it allegesin its 28-page complaint filed on 23
November 2005 in Philadelphias United States District
Court officesare costs resulting from deficient
and defective design work at its hands.
concludes that "most, if not all, of the cost overruns"
were "the result of [Rafael Viñoly Architects'] performance
on the project." It states the construction cost
$ 180 million, which was significantly more than the $ 157
million originally budgeted for construction.
Costs shot up,
the document says, when steel erection was delayed by 16 months.
threatening the centers long-planned opening. The shorted
time-frame prompted overtime filings from workers, and costly
charges for expedited manufacturing services.
The document alleges
that documents were late, inaccurate, and incomplete, that
design work was inadequate, and that equipment underperformed,
and required repair or replacement. The complaint states that
RVA broke its contractual promise to correctat no cost
to the Kimmelany defects in design or in specification.
Because the case
is still pending, neither party would comment directly on
the matter. Viñolys office released a statement saying
that it was extremely disappointed by the by the
complaint, adding that, The same people who praised
the building are now criticizing it. We feel the claim is
The 425,000 square-foot
glass barrel-vaulted performing arts center, which contains
three theaters, is located on Broad Street in Center City
Philadelphia. Today, the centerwhich has spearheaded
a transformation of Philadelphias cultural life and
civic identitystruggles to pay the $2 million annual
bank loan fee servicing the $30 million debt from construction
overruns and from falling short of fundraising goals. A December
14 story in the Philadelphia Inquirer noted that this debt
is compromising the centers ability to amass an endowment
and develop top-level programming.
The case goes
to trial on January 28 2006, and comes after the Kimmels
30-month effort to resolve the matter with RVA failed (an
effort it charges in the complaint that the firm stalled through
its delays in attempting to find counsel). The suit could
open up many issues about an architects financial and
legal accountability for construction overruns.