Lonely Planet Writer

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a cool solution to an ugly construction fence

The Philadelphia Museum of Art recently broke ground on its Frank Gehry-designed Core Project, which will transform sections of the historic building’s interior and add 90,000 square feet of space. In lieu of a traditional fence enclosing the construction, the museum enlisted design firm Pentagram to create a barrier more fitting for an institution that houses over 240,000 world-renowned works of art.

Constructionism is part construction fence and part art installation.
Constructionism is part construction fence and part art installation. Image by Pentagram Design Firm

Constructionism is part construction fence and part art installation, showcasing about 75 painting, photography, decorative art, and textile reproductions from the museum’s expansive collection. Inspired by stacked canvasses, gallery scaffolding, and art transportation crates, the design team, led by Paula Scher, created oversized artworks in various dimensions, with the largest about ten by eleven feet. Each work is stretched on a frame and leans against the 450-foot-long fence as if it’s waiting to be installed. “The Museum’s incredible collection has been bursting at the seams, and the expansion will give it a greater opportunity to display more treasures. In the meantime, the artworks are literally out on the street,” Scher said in a statement. “Constructionism is a celebration of what the Museum does, which is make art accessible to the city.”

While current works include Salvador Dali and Georgia O’Keeffe reproductions, among many others, the fence was designed so that “canvases” may be switched out in the coming months and years to showcase more of collection. Pieces are arranged in deliberate groupings to invite comparisons, just like when curated inside the museum.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art's cool construction fence.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s cool construction fence. Image by Pentagram Design Firm

The world’s largest independent design consultancy, Pentagram has outposts in New York, London, San Francisco, Berlin, and Austin, and has worked on projects that include designing the logo for the latest Harry Potter film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and creating a brand identity for the New York Botanical Garden.

Constructionism will be on display until 2020, when the museum’s Core Project phase is slated to be completed.