Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Grand Plans for Revamped Philadelphia Museum of Art

Construction on the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s $196 million core project, designed by world renowned architect Frank Gehry, is set to begin this month.

Some big changes coming to the museum include a 640-foot vaulted walkway that will run from Kelly Drive to the Schuylkill River, which hasn’t been opened since the 1960s. More gallery space will be built and multiple spaces, including Lenfest Hall, will be renovated.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has pulled back the curtain on its grand plans for the future of one of Philadelphia’s cultural treasures.

Like Philadelphia’s own Parthenon, the Philadelphia Museum of Art sits majestically on a rise at the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The vast collections of this temple of art make it the third-largest art museum in the country, and an absolute must-see on the city’s museum circuit.

Since opening to the public in 1928, the art museum has welcomed countless visitors, artists and exhibitions, evolving its collections and programming to accommodate 21st-century needs. However, few significant updates have been made to the structure itself.

Now, after nearly 90 years of use, the museum has revealed a comprehensive plan for the renovation, revitalization and expansion of the Parthenon on the Parkway, tapping celebrated architect Frank Gehry to design and now implement this ambitious multi-phase project.

The Master Plan

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A great bastion of fine art, the historic Philadelphia Museum of Art is more than mere museum — it’s a civic landmark and a true architectural treasure.

Plans to renovate the venerated building have been under consideration for more than a decade, with an initial integrated Facilities Master Plan completed by architectural engineering firm Vitetta in 2004 and design development by Frank Gehry and his group dating back to 2006

Gehry, renowned around the world for such expressive buildings as the Guggenheim Bilboa and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, has taken a very different approach with the Philadelphia Museum of Art project. The architect has said he is embracing the DNA of the building, and not making many obvious exterior changes.

Rather, his design aims to open the interior space and make the museum far more navigable to visitors and desirable for displays of fine art.

All phases of the Master Plan have been approved, and the coming years will see both major and minor enhancements to the interior and exterior of the museum as funding is secured, touching every portion of the grand building.

There are no fewer than 10 principal components of the Master Plan, from key updates of infrastructure to the addition of 124,000 square feet of public space.

For the exterior, few changes have been proposed to preserve the integrity of the building, keeping alternations to the facade and the iconic “Rocky steps” to a minimum.

The interior, however, will see such major improvements as the renovation and expansion of Lenfest Hall and the Great Stair Hall, the reopening of a public entrance on the north side of the museum leading through a gorgeous vaulted corridor, as well as the creation of a brand-new central space beneath the Great Stair Hall leading to 55,000 square feet of new gallery space to be carved out beneath the east terrace.

The comprehensive and ambitious Master Plan will, of course, be implemented in phases. A handful of key improvements — dubbed the Core Project — will be the next portion of the Master Plan to roll out.

And that’s only the start.

No undertaking this significant could be accomplished in one fell swoop, and timeline estimations for the execution of the Master Plan in its entirety range from 10 to 15 years.

Once complete, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will be prepared for the next 90 years…and beyond.