At home, however, one cannot say the Kimmel has been wowed by raves. Here, the critics have rehashed her stormy birth and dwell on what they see as the architectural disappointments. One especially scathing commentary described both the building and hall as "oversized, poorly detailed and lifeless" and likened it to 30th Street Station (another success, in my book), labeling it "empty, echoing, too big for its uses."
Why our hometown negativity?
Art and comfort are not synonymous, and innovation unsettles. We in Philadelphia have traditionally judged our public spaces not primarily for their intended purpose, but for how well they fit in and how familiar and comfortable they feel.
We are not alone. When the Eiffel Tower was built, classically trained architects were taught to cover steel, not expose and celebrate it, and the French were united: They detested it! All change unsettles, provokes, questions. But it also forces growth.
In Philadelphia, we have a long history of emphasizing our weaknesses until those flaws are the main things apparent to ourselves and outsiders. We're used to broadcasting a second-class status to the world, oblivious to the price we pay. We act like we don't deserve the marvelous accomplishments, and subsequent raves, that we've worked so hard to achieve, and we push away talent and gifts that will continue to expand us.
Remember when Frank Rizzo told the world before the Bicentennial that he feared we didn't have enough security to handle the crowds? This led to every host's worst nightmare: We planned a party and nobody came. Remember when reporting during the Annenberg exhibit here of his cherished Impressionist collection contributed to his decision to leave the collection to New York?
Obviously, if Philadelphia reporters and critics lose their objectivity, they will also lose their professional credibility. But criticism tempered with balance and perspective does not mean that one is in bed with the enemy.
Breaking spirits is not synonymous with fine reporting or commentary. A public that believes that a publication has no loyalty to them will have no loyalty to it.
Walk past the Kimmel Center and you will constantly see people buying tickets and just milling about. The warmth of the wood beckons; the height of the dome inspires; the hard-working, dedicated staff welcomes and informs.
The architect who damned the design, viewing us as "reduced to tiny, unimportant flecks on the scene," just doesn't get it. Yes, the vastness both startles and humbles. But it also prepares us to share a universal physical language. It may not always make us comfortable - but it will always help us to see.
The center speaks to us in the language of art, and often of genius. It is a form of communication that has eternally restored humankind, given us hope in times of destruction and devastation, and implored us to believe in our capacity to understand, love and care for each other, in spite of it all.
In the evening, it's heavenly to be mesmerized by the dome's sparkle at the top tier of our city's most memorable space.
LET'S FEEL PRIDE together as we look out through her radiant new crown at our extraordinary Philadelphia, America's birthplace of freedom.
In the words of the Los Angeles Times, the Kimmel Center is "a national symbol." And, because of this symbol, "2001 will not end with only the story of destruction on the East Coast."
Be proud, Philadelphia! Happy Valentine'[s Day! *
SaraKay Smullens is a Philadelphia family therapist and writer.