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Construction on the Museum of the American Revolution will be completed this year

A rendering of the Museum of the American Revolution

Construction on the Museum of the American Revolution

The former occupant of the site

Anyone passing through historic Old City these days has probably noticed a major project at the corner of 3rd and Chestnut Streets. It's the future site of The Museum of the American Revolution, and construction has been ongoing for 20 months.

The new tourist attraction is landing in Independence National Historical Park thanks to a land-swap with the National Park Service -- they gained a new parcel in Valley Forge in exchange for opening up the site to the new four-story 118,000-square foot museum. The site was long home to a Park Service visitors’ center built in the 1970s for America’s bicentennial. That closed about fifteen years ago and was demolished to make way for the new museum.

"We wanted a building that reflected classic design, to fit and honor the history of the neighborhood," says CEO Michael Quinn of engaging Robert A.M. Stern Architects for the $150 million project, currently funded at $124 million with a matching grant of $12 million underway to close the gap.

"We took an approach [to the layout] that we think is going to be really effective," continues Quinn. The site's main exhibit space will be on the second floor, with a core gallery of about 16,000 square feet integrating immersive multi-media experiences with a range of notable artifacts, including George Washington's original tent which served as both his office and sleeping quarters during the Revolutionary War.

The ground floor will feature a lobby, museum shop, 180-seat introductory theater, 5,000-square-foot gallery for temporary exhibitions, and a café that will spill out along 3rd Street.

"We wanted to contribute to the dynamism of the urban environment," says Quinn.

The lower level will offer two large classrooms and the top floor will house the museum’s offices and event space, including room to seat 180 for dinner. Out of about 85,000 "usable" square feet of space, 30,000 are dedicated to visitors, education and experiences -- a very high ratio of visitor orientation.

According to Kirsti Bracali, a project manager with consulting firm Dan Bosin Associates, the design also incorporates eco-friendly elements such as a green roof and state-of-the-art stormwater management, air-cycling, and heat-recovery systems.

The building meets and exceeds Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) stormwater requirements and is working toward LEED certification. There’s a green roof on 90 percent of the spaces over the museum -- it handles rainwater as well as deflects heat. It’ll also be a nice splash of green for taller adjacent buildings to look down on.

The museum's recovered stormwater will have year-round use in cooling towers, via a large underground cistern. With its museum-quality air requirements -- temperature and humidity control is essential for preserving the artifacts on display -- it’s notable that the site will use collected stormwater to help with climate control.

"This is the first time it’s been done in Philadelphia," says Bracali of the system, which the museum has been working with PWD to implement.

The museum’s offices should be occupied by September of this year; opening day is planned for 2017.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Sources: Michael Quinn, Museum of the American Revolution; Kirsti Bracali, Dan Bosin Associates 

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