Lonely Planet Writer

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is getting a redesign courtesy of Frank Gehry

Frank Gehry has designed for some of the world’s most notable buildings, from Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum to the Fondation Louis-Vuitton in Paris and soon, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will join the list.

The forum looking east.
The Forum looking east. Image by the Philadelphia Museum of Art

While the museum will retain its original exterior, the famed architect is leading a transformation of the historic building’s interior. The $196 million Core Project broke ground last week, and aims to improve the visitor experience by adding 67,000 square feet of new public space and an additional 23,000 square feet divided between its American and Contemporary art collections.

The forum looking west.
The Forum looking west. Image by the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Gehry weighed in at the groundbreaking ceremony, noting “[The museum’s original architects] Horace Trumbauer and Julian Abele left a legacy here—the DNA and bones of the place are really fantastic. We just had to uncork a few of the clogged arteries.”

Frank Gehry's redesign of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Frank Gehry’s redesign of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Image by  the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The Los Angeles-based architect was approached to redesign the museum’s interior after the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao was unveiled. “I was asked, ‘could you do the same to our building that you did for Bilbao—but you can’t do anything to the outside?” His answer was, “why not? Let’s try.”

Lenfest Hall
Lenfest Hall Image by the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The first phase of the Core Project includes a renovation of the North Entrance as well as the dramatic vaulted walkway that’s been closed to the public since the 1960s. Both are slated to be completed in 2019, and the museum will remain open throughout.

For his part, the museum’s director sees Gehry as a natural fit to tackle the vast project. “Frank Gehry is a brilliant architect who possesses a remarkable understanding of the Museum and its collection,” Timothy Rub, the museum’s George D. Widener Director and CEO, tells Lonely Planet. “The master plan he has produced represents both a deep sympathy for the character and historical importance of our main building and, at the same time, a recognition of how it needs to be renewed and improved. No architect is better suited to this task.”

A post shared by Visit Philly (@visitphilly) on Mar 31, 2017 at 3:02pm PDT

“Gehry’s design will create wonderful new public spaces and galleries,” says Rub. “In several years, when visitors pass through North Entrance and encounter our historic Vaulted Walkway and the soaring space we are calling the Forum, they will immediately appreciate all that Gehry has achieved.”
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