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December 09, 2020

Floating concert hall created by Philly architect Louis Kahn to permanently dock on Delaware River

Real estate company developing the former Delaware Power Station site found a home for the 'music barge'

Architecture Delaware River
delaware river louis kahn Thom Carroll/for PhillyVoice

Philly architect Louis Kahn's floating concert hall, the Point Counterpoint II, will become a permanent fixture on the Delaware River after being purchased by a real estate firm developing a former PECO power station site.

Architect Louis Kahn, who died in 1974, was based in Philadelphia and was a professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania during his lifetime. He's known for his work in the city and across the country, but arguably his most unique design is the "music barge."

The Point Counterpoint II, a 195-foot vessel that has acted as a floating concert hall since 1976, faced possible destruction after failing to find a permanent home and owner since 2017.

It seems the barge has finally found where it belongs, however: in the city Kahn called home.

Due to a recent purchase by a real estate company developing the abandoned Delaware Power Station into an arts center, it will be docked on the Delaware River outside the complex.

Kahn first created a musical boat as a collaborative project with American conductor Robert Austin Boudreau.

The first boat, Point Counterpoint, featured an orchestra of percussion instruments fixed to the structure that called itself the "American Wind Symphony Orchestra." However, the boat couldn't power itself.

The second boat, the Point Counterpoint II, was self-propelled and designed by Kahn, but completed after his unexpected death. The project was finished with the help of British architect George Djurkovic.

The Point Counterpoint II traveled to different ports with conductor Boudreau and the orchestra for around 40 years. The barge's structure opens up into a clamshell-shaped concert stage, so that the portable orchestra can dock and perform for concert attendees onshore.

In 2017, Boudreau, who was 90 years old at the time, decided to retire. At first it looked like no one was willing to take on the project, but then cellist Yo-Yo Ma penned an Op-Ed pleading for someone to save the barge.

The boat was passed around from different cities, looking to dock in one place. At one point, it seemed like it might settle in Florida, but that offer didn't pan out.

Instead, the boat will now be permanently docked in Philly. Lubert-Adler Real Estate Funds, who are renovating the former Delaware Generating Station used by PECO, say it will feature the barge as the key musical component of the arts center. The new center is expected to open to visitors in 2022. 

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