Retractable roof on Quaker Meetinghouse in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania offers open sky for this worship space
While retractable roofs and structures may be trending in upscale hotels, restaurants, and clubs across the globe due to their convenience and unquestionable “wow-factor,” the functional features have been making a strong-but-less-boisterous statement in equally peaceful settings as well.
Since its opening to the public last October, barely a peep has been made about the retractable roof installed at the Chestnut Hill Skyspace, a Quaker faith community meeting space in northwest Philadelphia. This functional piece of an art installation known as “Greet the Light” by world renowned artist, James Turrell, has garnered more and more interest.
Turrell’s light-centered art, which according to a description found at New York’s Guggenheim Museum of Art, creates “groundbreaking explorations of perception, light, color and space,” has been installed and featured all over the world. From London’s Pace Gallery to Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, Turrell’s magnificent work has not only been seen, but experienced by tourists and locals, art enthusiasts and curious onlookers alike.
A few times a week, the public is invited to Chestnut Hill SkySpace to experience the 50-minute show that features the raw, unfiltered and unobstructed view of the sky. Patrons are encouraged to bring blankets, mats, and cushions for their comfort, and invited to sit, or even lie down on the floor of the SkySpace. While the sky’s naturally transitioning colors highlight the open space overhead, intense colors transition and undulate on the inner walls of the space by way of installed LED lighting. Because an unobstructed view of the sky and its natural colors from inside the space are an integral part of the experience, Libart’s quiet, minimalist style retractable roof was a perfect solution for protecting the inner space from potentially damaging elements while providing easy access to the open sky at the touch of a button.
Libart’s retractable structures have become far more than a trendy attraction in hospitality and fine dining venues. Because of their quiet, easy, and quick functioning, they also serve as a perfect solution for countless open-sky projects from greenhouses to astronomy observatories. Whether you prefer to dance the night away with friends under a ceiling of stars, or meditate quietly on the meaning of life under the open heavens, the skies are there for the taking.
For this project, Libart specifically provided the custom steel sub-structure, as pictured below and also custom-designed a programmable logic controller to operate the motors, limits sensors, and controls. A custom inflatable seal was designed and installed to automatically inflate when fully closed and deflate prior to opening. This seal provides for complete air and weather protections around the perimeter of the opening. The finishing of the roof was provided by other contractors.