Philadelphia, PA

Brandywine Workshop

Metcalfe led the design team for this project which began as the renovation of a 19th-century Italianate firehouse in Center City Philadelphia. For almost two decades, it has been an arts center along the city’s Avenue of the Arts. The scope included the design of a new outdoor green plaza, entry, café, gallery classrooms, and office space. 


The exterior included a four-story, cast-glass stair tower by a Brandywine artist, that would bring light to the dark interior and would be a glowing day and nighttime beacon on Broad Street (the main Center City artery), signaling activity at this vibrant community of artists. The plaza created the only green space along the Avenue, and served as a forecourt to the new entry. The project included multiple meetings with zoning and Historic Commission officials.  


During design, we uncovered a potentially disastrous structural problem in the façade. We worked closely with CVM Engineers to devise a plan to revise and reconfigure its façade and structural backup. The development of the building interior did not move forward after the structural problems were remediated. 


We worked closely with the client, board and contractor to keep costs down, especially when devising the complex structural and historical restoration. Our design gestures for the plaza and stair tower reflected the character of paper, the media primarily used at the print workshop. This modern intervention worked well with the requirements

of the city’s Art and Historical Commissions.


“An eye-catching, transparent entry that is intended to let the sun into its historic building and advertises Brandywine’s presence on the avenue.”


Inga Saffron, Architecture Critic, Philadelphia Inquirer