frank gehry masterplans the philadelphia museum of art
frank gehry masterplans the philadelphia museum of art frank gehry masterplans the philadelphia museum of art
jul 14, 2014

frank gehry masterplans the philadelphia museum of art

frank gehry masterplans the philadelphia museum of art
rendering © gehry partners, LLP
all images courtesy of the philadelphia museum of art




frank gehry has presented plans for the comprehensive remodeling of the philadelphia museum of art in pennsylvania. displayed as part of an exhibition entitled ‘making a classic modern’, the project reorganizes the interior of the historic building, incorporating over 15,000 square meters of additional gallery space to house more of the institution’s prestigious collection.

frank gehry philadelphia museum of art masterplan designboom
lenfest hall is remodeled to provide better public access points 
rendering © gehry partners, LLP




at the exhibit, visitors are encouraged to engage with historic photographs, large-scale models and hardline drawings, that both explain gehry’s approach and enable guests to explore the history of the structure and its surroundings. rather than the sculptural forms often prevalent in gehry’s work, the plan focuses more on reestablishing the museum’s existing architecture, ensuring that the building is both welcoming and navigable.

frank gehry philadelphia museum of art masterplan designboom
underground galleries are lit in part by a skylight in the east terrace
rendering © gehry partners, LLP




the plan reconfigures existing circulation routes, with the renovation of the two principle public access points: lenfest hall and the great stair hall. a public forum is created immediately below the great stair hall in the center of the U-shaped building, opening up the building’s east-west axis. below the east terrace large galleries provide room for special exhibitions, with vaulted ceilings supported on slender columns.

frank gehry philadelphia museum of art masterplan designboom
the vaulted underground walkway will reopen for art and events
rendering © gehry partners, LLP




after being closed for decades, the museum’s arched northern entrance will reopen to the public providing access to a grand corridor that runs 640 feet from the north to the south side of the building. additional changes include a 10,000 square foot learning center, a 299-seat auditorium and the development of visitor amenities such as dining facilities and the museum store.

frank gehry philadelphia museum of art masterplan designboom
the museum’s east terrace with new stair enclosures clad in the same sandstone as the original structure
rendering © gehry partners, LLP




externally, minimal modifications have been proposed with local studio OLIN responsible for the project’s landscaping. the plaza in front of the west entrance has been redesigned with a substantial percentage of the area used for parking. the combination of skylights and sunken terraces integrated within the east terrace bring natural light below ground, while stair enclosures are clad in the same sandstone as used on the original structure.

frank gehry philadelphia museum of art masterplan designboom
externally, minimal changes have been proposed to the institution’s west terrace
rendering © gehry partners, LLP




‘we began by studying the character of this wonderful building – its DNA. it is rare to have the bones of the existing building show you the way to expand it. from there, we used the significant assets that the original architects gave us to create a strong entry sequence and circulation pattern that connects the new galleries to the existing building in a way that makes the new galleries seem like they have always been there. my goal is to make the building feel like one coherent design statement’, explained frank gehry.

frank gehry philadelphia museum of art masterplan designboom
site plan detailing the project’s landscaping
image © OLIN




constance H. williams, chair of the board of trustees of the philadelphia museum of art, stated: ‘the board of trustees is delighted to share this master plan with the public. this vision representing our future is closely aligned with our strategic objectives to ensure that the museum continues to serve our community and visitors from around the world.

frank gehry philadelphia museum of art masterplan designboom
a cross-section view showing the changes to the existing interior spaces and the new underground galleries
rendering © gehry partners, LLP




timothy rub, the george D. widener director and chief executive officer of the philadelphia museum of art, continued: gehry’s carefully detailed design is the embodiment of creative stewardship. the approach that frank and his staff took to solving this challenging program reflects a deep sympathy for one of philadelphia’s most widely admired landmarks. the design was also informed by a sophisticated understanding of how this facility needs to be changed. it is an inspiring blueprint for the future of the philadelphia museum of art. all of this will be accomplished in a way that honors and preserves the fabric of the iconic building and will hardly be evident on the exterior.

  • They go too far with this nonsense. (Surprising it’s not an exterior landmark.) The fire-escape-style stair enclosures “clad in the same sandstone as the original structure” …Should Not Be Permitted. A similar conspiracy is currently afoot in New York, where the “Midtown East” development scheme proposes removing great swaths of natty early 20th Century architecture based on the false premise that modern offices require 20-foot ceilings. The targeted Oz-like buildings are irreplaceable, yet whole blocks of badly decayed six-story tenements in the same area, used only for the restaurants occupying their ground floors, will remain. The first “hyper-scraper” to benefit from “Midtown East” will cast Grand Central into its overwhelming deep-eclipse shadow just in time for completion of the new “East Side Access” project, which involves further vandalism to the famous landmark’s interior following recent now rapidly decaying billion-dollar alterations. “West Side Access” was not so lucky, failing in 2010 to get the so-called Citi Tower Art Deco skyscraper demolished to make way. But with the new plan they’re aiming for the Southgate (a.k.a. Affinia) Hotel, which somehow managed to sidestep being perforated with holes for individual room air conditioners back in the day. I’d like to see Gehry swung from a bungee cord, painting new bricks in the air conditioner holes of those perforated buildings slated for removal under the Midtown East Scheme.

    Bruce Hain says:

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