Press Release

Crucial Renovations of PAFA’s Historic Landmark Building Currently Underway

Crucial Renovations of PAFA’s Historic Landmark Building Currently Underway

Massive skylights being installed; historically precise designs with
state-of-the-art materials to replace current skylights from 1940s

PHILADELPHIA (March 29, 2017) – The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) has begun a significant renovation project to install a pair of massive skylights atop its Historic Landmark Building.

The project, which is expected to continue through late April, involves demolition of a pair of large steel-and-glass skylights, located on either side of PAFA’s main entrance on Broad Street.

The skylights are roughly 19 feet square, identical to the current footprint, and took several months to construct. The disassembled skylights were transported by truck from Washington State. They will be lifted by crane to the roof and assembled by a team of about six workers.

Installation of the frames and glass panes is expected to take several weeks, with the northernmost skylight (the side next to Lenfest Plaza) being replaced first. The total cost of the skylight replacement project is over $700,000.

“The new triple-pane skylight glass will be an invaluable improvement over the current single-pane glass and will provide drastically improved thermal and UV protection than the current skylights, which were installed in the late 1940s,” said David R. Brigham, PAFA President, CEO and Acting Museum Director.

The new skylights were custom fabricated by Skyworks Daylighting, a West Coast company specializing in historically accurate reproduction skylights. The skylights being installed are designed to replicate the sheet metal profiles from the late 1800s, with a design that allows for placement of concealed reinforcement bars within the decorative outer structure. This creates an assembly that is highly stable, secure and long-lasting.

The Historic Landmark Building will remain open during while the rooftop work is underway but the affected galleries will be closed, and the art work removed, for the duration of the demolition and installation process.

The Historic Landmark Building at 118 North Broad Street opened to the public on April 22, 1876. Designed by the Philadelphia firm of Frank Furness and George Hewitt, it is considered one of the most innovative buildings in America, and provides the museum with a magnificent setting for the presentation of its 19th-century collections and special exhibitions.

“Now is the time to preserve this landmark in American creativity so that it can continue to inspire visitors and the next generation of great American artists,” said George E. Thomas, Philadelphia-based cultural and architectural historian and a Furness scholar who is writing a forthcoming book about the building, Inventing Modern.

The building is PAFA’s third home in its 212-year history. The first two buildings, both white marble structures in the neo-classical style, stood on Chestnut Street between 10th and 11th streets. The first structure was destroyed by fire; the second quickly became too small for PAFA’s expanding collection.

The project is being funded by a gift from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation through PAFA’s capital campaign: PAFA First: For the Future of American Art. The $25 million capital campaign, of which more than $15 million has been raised, includes a Campus Master Plan addressing major upgrades such as HVAC, roof, skylights, electrical, elevators, windows, plumbing, masonry, and accessibility. In the past year, improvements have included replacement of the building’s slate roof, repair and gentle cleaning of the masonry, and new gutters.

The work has been done with the review and approval of the Philadelphia Historic Commission.

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is America's first school of fine arts and museum. A recipient of the 2005 National Medal of Arts, PAFA is a recognized leader in fine arts education with a world-class permanent collection of American art.


Last Updated
March 29, 2017 - 9:40 AM

About PAFA

Founded in 1805, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is America's first school and museum of fine arts. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts, PAFA offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the fine arts, innovative exhibitions of historic and contemporary American art, and a world-class collection of American art. PAFA’s esteemed alumni include Mary Cassatt, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Thomas Eakins, William Glackens, Barkley L. Hendricks, Violet Oakley, Louis Kahn, David Lynch, and Henry Ossawa Tanner.