The location and form of the Independence Visitor Center has been developed in accordance with the dictates of the Master Plan for the Independence Mall. Thus, the Visitor Center together with the Independence Park Institute runs the full length of the western side of the block between Market and Arch Streets, forming a built edge to the Park and providing an almost continuous street frontage along Sixth Street. Marked by brick piers and tall porches, arborways which flank both the Visitor Center and the Independence Park Institute, and vine-covered trellises, the Center projects the image of a “Garden Wall” to the park.
It is marked along its length by a skylight and a glazed cupola which brings natural light into the interior at the principal point of public entry and gathering, and joins with the artificial illumination of the hall below to enliven this western edge to the park at night.
Along Sixth Street a western facing glass façade gives light and views into the lower level sky-lit interior garden of the Great Room, which acts both as an entry loggia to the below-grade parking garage and the Visitor Center. This street façade is further enlivened by windows into the National Park Service exhibit and the gift shop. The narrow Market Street frontage anticipates a mural or other form of public artwork. Above this façade is an expansive viewing terrace partially covered by a pergola structure supporting climbing vines. The copper-clad roof will gradually weather to a green color, matching the leaf canopy of the trees in the Park.
Within the constancy of the architecture and the clarity of the plan, a variety of interior spaces are organized to accommodate a diverse program and visitors’ experiences, serving the orientation and exhibition needs of the National Park Service, the City and the Philadelphia region.
Included are spaces for trip planning activities, theatres, AV-equipped orientation spaces, a special events room, limited food service, retail, and a multitude of support spaces. These program spaces are aligned along a large, heroically scaled exhibition hall, and are choreographed to enhance pedestrian circulation with views and orientation to the immediate park setting and beyond.
The overall design seeks to integrate a welcoming and memorable civic building with its pastoral setting and, together with the Liberty Bell Pavilion and the National Constitution Center, contributes to the historic precinct that celebrates the birthplace of American democracy.