Ned Kahn ‘Shimmer Wall’ to grace Franklin Institute facade

As part of the New Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion, the 53,000 square foot addition set to open June 2014, the "Shimmer Wall" is designed to mirror the sky and make visible the wind and other natural weather elements. Credit: Franklin Institute.
As part of the New Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion, the 53,000-square-foot addition set to open June 2014, the “Shimmer Wall” is designed to mirror the sky and make visible the wind and other natural weather elements.                     Credit: Franklin Institute.

The Franklin Institute can’t help man walk on water, but it can show him the wind.

The institute is sticking a 2,665-square-foot wall to the facade of the new extension to the historical museum.

As part of the New Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion, the 53,000-square-foot addition, set to open June 2014, the “Shimmer Wall” is designed to mirror the sky and make visible the wind and other natural weather elements.

The Wall is a network of 12,500 hinged aluminum flappers that will move in the wind. During the day, the flappers will appear as undulating waves.

“It will reflect the ambient colors of what is around,” said Troy Collins, senior vice president. “So during the day sunlight, the sky, clouds, shadows, trees — however the light falls on the aluminum panels it will literally reflect that as its art.”

At night: “We have a very subtle back light system,” Collins said. “It will be lit from the back, so as the panels move at night it will either reveal or cover the light, thus creating a very different visual at night.”

The wall was designed by renowned environmental artist Ned Kahn, who’s known for making an invisible aspect of nature visible.

“We consider it a piece of art,” Collins said.

The vision for the Institute, conceived in the 1930s, was to stretch the building from Winter Street to Race, and 20th to 21st. It was supposed to fill the entire block.

“When the Great Depression hit, the funds weren’t available to complete the original expansion,” Collins said. “And so what we have here is an opportunity  to realize that vision.”

Where the pavilion is being added is a space along race that was an empty block.

The 53,000-square-foot extension will highlight the close connections between science and art by incorporating a number of spectacular architectural and aesthetic elements, including the Shimmer Wall.

“The integration of Ned Kahn’s art structure as part of our pavilion’s architecture creates a uniquely dynamic palette of limestone, glass, stainless steel and kinetic aluminum panels which will add a signature new facade to the culturally packed Benjamin Franklin Parkway,” said Peter Saylor of SaylorGregg Architects.

When the concept was first developed, Institute staff conceived of a few important rules.

“We wanted to stay true to the historic integrity of the building,” Collins said. “We also wanted to build in a modern feel and highlight Philadelphia as not only the ‘science’ city that it is, but also provide a piece of art that would reflect upon Philadelphia’s reputation as a science city.”

“And we said we could actually do both.”


Follow Tommy Rowan on Twitter: @tommyrowan

Follow Metro Philadelphia on Twitter: @metrophilly

Follow Metro Philadelphia on Facebook: Metro Philadelphia


Hurricane Odile batters Mexico's Baja resorts, sparks looting

Hurricane Odile injured dozens of people, forced the evacuation of thousands and smashed shops open to looters in the popular tourist area of Baja, Mexico.


Apple iPhone 6 pre-orders hit record 4 million…

By Lehar Maan(Reuters) - Apple Inc said many customers will need to wait until next month for their new iPhones after a record 4 million…


LAPD investigates complaint from detained 'Django' actress

The LAPD is investigating after "Django Unchained" actress Daniele Watts accused police of violating her rights when they detained her.


Number of New York City smokers increase, topping…

For the first time since 2007, there are  more than one million smokers in New York City, according to the New York City Department of…


Newsflash: Corey Stoll still not a man

In director Shaun Levy's "This Is Where I Leave You," Corey Stoll stars as the oldest of four adult children (the others are played by…


If you don't like Simon Pegg's new film,…

Simon Pegg goes all out in "Hector and the Search for Happiness" as the titular psychiatrist stymied by modern life who embarks on a globetrotting…


Art in Chelsea: Don't miss these 3 galleries

We selected three sure bets for seeing cool art in the galleries of Chelsea.


Robin Thicke blurs lines further with new 'Blurred…

"The reality is," said Robin Thicke about "Blurred Lines" in a court deposition, "Pharrell had the beat and he wrote almost every single part of the song."


Tom Coughlin says Giants 'beat themselves' against Cardinals

Head coach Tom Coughlin, who had a day to cool off and reflect, still sounded like he had a gnawing feeling in his gut.


Marty Mornhinweg accepts blame for Jets timeout fiasco

Jets fans looking for a scapegoat for Sunday’s timeout fiasco found a willing party on Monday: Marty Mornhinweg.


3 things we learned in Jets loss to…

The wheels came off for the Jets, who gave up 21 unanswered points after a brilliant first 20 minutes in a 31-24 loss at the Packers.


Victor Cruz catches case of the drops in…

The Giants dropped a tough, 25-14, decision to the undermanned Cardinals Sunday in their home opener. And drop was the operative word of the day,…


Top chefs share their recipes in UNICEF's new…

Forty top chefs unite and share their recipes in UNICEF's new book, "UNICHEF."


World's most hipster cities: Top 5

Travel blogger Adam Groffman tells us his picks for the Top 5 most hipster cities in the world.


The top 5 regrets recent high school grads…

College application season can seem like a blur for many students - as test prep, campus visits and filling out a seemingly endless stream of…


Tech execs tend to limit their kids' screen…

You probably got your iPad before Bill Gates's kids did.