The Interior and Exterior of the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts

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TheInterior and Exterior of the Pennsylvania Academy of Arts

PennsylvaniaAcademy of the Fine arts, abbreviated and commonly known as PAFA is amuseum and art school located on the southwest corner of Broad andCherry streets of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. Notably it consistsof two buildings and two sculptures in between the buildings, whichinclude an enormous orange paintbrush sculpture, the size of a smallbuilding and an airplane between the Historic landmark Building(which houses great interior architecture) and a more modern Hamiltonbuilding

Historiclandmark Building was designed by architects Frank Furness and GeorgeHewitt and is arguably the oldest art museum and art school. Inaddition, it is considered one of the most magnificent Victorianbuildings in United States. Ideally, its facades draws on differenthistorical styles, including second Empire, Renaissance Revival, andGothic Revival, merged in an “aggressively personal manner”. Onthe other hand, the Hamilton building mainly draws from the modernarchitecture with minimalistic aesthetics (Lewis and Furness56).Since foundation, the academy is known for its collection ofworks by the leading American artists, as well as works bydistinguished alumni and faculty of its school. The collection isinstalled in a chronological and thematic format, exploring thehistory of American art from the 1760s to the present. Fundamentally,PAFA is a perfect example of Victorian Gothic buildings that arestill intact today.

PAFAsHistorical Landmark Building facades comprises a combination ofrusticated brownstone, dressed sandstone, polished pink granite, redpressed brick, and terra cotta mainly drawn from the Victorian style.(Lewis and Furness 74) As a result, the combination gives thebuilding an overall earthy feel and rough aesthetic of the Vaticangothic architecture and elements of the French Neo-Grecofunctionalism, highly evident through use of visible iron girderconstruction in the interior galleries.

Thefront façade of the building is a hundred feet on Broad Street and adepth of two hundred and fifty eight on Cherry Street. Its situation,along streets on its three sides and an open space along part of thefourth façade provides the entire building with ample lighting,ventilation, as well as freedom from risk of fire.

Onthe main entrance, which is two stories high, the walls are laid onpattern of red and white bricks. In addition, over the main entranceof the Broad Street there is a large Gothic window with stonetracery. Furthermore, the cherry street front is relieved by acolonnade supporting arched windows back of which is the transeptand pointed gable.

Beyondthe entrance, is the main staircase, which starts from a wide halland leads to the galleries on the second floor. Along the CherryStreet, the architect utilizes the clear north light through creationof five galleries, which are arranged for casts from the antique, andfurther thereon are the rooms for drapery painting and the lifeclass.

Onthe south side, there is a large lecture room with retiring rooms.Behind them are modeling rooms and other chambers commonly used bystudents and professors. On the second floor, there is the main hall,which is designed to extent across the building, and is used forexhibition of large works of art. This story floor is divided intogalleries, which are lighted from the top. Through the center runs ahall, which is set apart for the exhibition of small statues, basreliefs as well as statues and busts. On each wall of the hall arepicture galleries, arranged in size and form.

Notably,the interior is organized around a Beaux-Arts principle, with thegalleries progressing from a central staircase that encourages motionthroughout the building. The main ornamentation is mainlyconcentrated around the entrance hall and the staircases, which alsoact as part of the exhibition spaces. The building highly relies onuse of Ohio stone, marble and jersey granite as well as red stone.Clearly influenced by its former facility, the building is fire proofand incombustible throughout, highly achieved by the exclusion ofwood as part of the building materials. Wildly colored andextravagantly detailed the Historic Landmark Building provides anextraordinary temporary exhibition spaces and array of contemporaryart.

TheSamuel Hamilton Building. Consequentlyadapted from the across the street, and later turned renovated andturned into exhibition also house a gift shop as well asportfolios.

TheLenfest Plaza. Itwas designed by the internationally renowned landscape architecturefirm OLIN, Lenfest Plaza, offers an inviting civic space for visitorsto Philadelphia, city residents, students, museum goers and is located between Historic Landmark and Samuel M.VHamilton buildings. It was constructed in the features athree-part serpentine bench, mosaic pavers , plantings, and arotating works of emerging and established artists in an urbansetting


Threebuildings that are influences for the building

Universityof Pennyslavia Library. Commonlyknown as the Fisher Fine Arts Library, the Furness Library, islocated on the campus of the

Universityof Pennsylvania, on the east side of College Green. Just like theHistorical Landmark Building of the PAFA, it was designed by thePhiladelphian Architect Frank Furness, between the years 1839 and1912 .similarly, it incorporates the use of red sandstone, brick andarticulation of Gothic properties, purposefully built as the mainlibrary in the institution as well as housing its archeologicalcollection.

Thelibrary plan is creatively innovative. Circulation to the buildingsfive stories is through the towers staircase, separated from thereading rooms and stacks. The main Reading Room is a soaringfour-story brick and terra cotta enclosed space, divided by an arcadefrom the two-story Rotunda room. The latter has a Basilica plan withseminar rooms grouped around an apse, the entire space lighted byClerestory windows. Above the Rotunda Reading Room is a two-storylecture hall, now an architecture studio. The main reading room, withits enormous skylight and a wall of south facing windows, acts as alight well, illuminating the surrounding inner rooms with leadedglass windows. Notably the architect utilizes natural lighting intoboth buildings.

AngelOrensanz centeris housed in gothic Revival synagogue, built in1849 for congregationAnsche Chesed. Designed by German architect alexander Seltzers.Spanish sculpture Angel Orensanz however bought and renovated it,into an art gallery. The building was designated a Historic Landmark


Thebuilding merged several aspects of different Architectural periodsincluding, the second empire, the revived renaissance, as well as thegothic Victorian era. The building has ample display spaces for theart as well as ample and well-coordinated circulation.

Significantly,the architect incorporation of incombustible materials with use ofbrick and iron cast was commendable. This was as a result and as asolution to the fact that the building before it had been consumed infire.

Inachieving lighting and ventilation Frank farness’ design allowedthree streets on each side of the building. As a result, the buildingwas able to achieve natural lighting, ventilation as well as safetyfrom risk of fire


Thebuilding is characterized by Corinthian columns, which are mostly onthe front façade. Similar columns that are used to support thearches. The columns are characterized by slender flute columns andelaborate capitals decorated with acanthus leaves scroll.

Slendercolumns and lighter systems of thrust allowed for larger windows andmore light. The windows, the tracery, carvings, and ribs make up adizzying display of decoration.


TheHistorical Landmark building, through the architects aggressiveapplication of several styles is an architectural masterpiece.However, through the modernism era, the building has become aloof andalienated from the rest of the environment. Unlike modernism, whichadvocates for minimalism, not only in form but also in aesthetics,with the notion form follows function the building highly relies oncurves as well as incorporation of heavy aesthetics.

Inconclusion, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA), which islocated in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia showcases a magnificentarchitectural design. Notably, the architect of the building focusedon accentuating the elements of Vitruvian triad architecture to comeup with the structure’s blueprint. Essentially, some of the aspectsincorporated include firmness, beauty, and utility. Interestingly, hewas capable of combining the three principles intelligible to createa not only functional, but also aesthetically appealing building.Over the years, most gothic buildings have been replaced bypostmodern buildings, which focus more on function than they dodesign. However, PAFA has retained its original design amongst acluster of block-like postmodern buildings that sprung up lateraround it. Correspondingly, this has made it alienated albeit in apositive manner that amplifies its worth as a historical monument.Overall, PAFA remains one of the remaining examples of buildings thatexisted during the Victorian Era, but which are still intact today.Effectively, this makes it an excellent specimen for study inarchitecture.


Lewis,Michael J, and Frank Furness.&nbspFrankFurness: Architecture and the Violent Mind.Norton, 2001.