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Gehry-Designed PA Art Museum Entrance Revealed

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

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Just two years after the groundbreaking of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Core Project, doors of the new Frank Gehry-designed entrance have finally been opened.

The north entrance and hallway had been closed to visitors since 1975 when it was repurposed as a loading dock for the nation’s bicentennial.

About the Project

Architectural Record reports that Gehry has been involved with the renovation of Horace Trumbauer and Julian Abele’s 1928 Beaux Arts building since 2006 when his Los Angeles-based firm was hired by former museum director Annie d’Harnoncourt to develop the museum’s master plan.

At the time, Gehry recalls d’Harnoncourt asking him to complete similar work like he’d previously completed at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, but that he would be restricted to only the inside of the Philadelphia-based museum.

“Nice challenge," Gehry said. "I had just done the other, so I thought, 'Why not? Let's try.’"

The construction—managed by LF Driscoll Company LLC—involves the removal of the museum’s auditorium, opening up a new main, multi-level space called “the Forum,” which plans to serve as a place for public gatherings. A new staircase is also planned to pass through and connect visitors to the 640-foot-long vaulted walkway above (the repurposed loading dock).

The west terrace is to be rebuilt to integrate ramps to the reopened north entrance. Also planned to be added in the interior are new classrooms, art studios, a restaurant, café, meeting rooms and new art galleries. In total, Gehry’s planned transformation involves 67,000 square feet of new public space, 11,500 square feet of gallery space and another 11,500 square feet of contemporary art display space.

The $196 million Core Project plan adds a grand total of 90,000 square feet to the 100-year-old museum and is the second part of Gehry’s three-phase Facilities Master Plan. The first project was a new Art Handling Facility, which was completed in 2012.

The Master Plan is part of a bigger effort in the “It Starts Here: Campaign for the Philadelphia Museum of Art,” which will allow the museum to “achieve ambitious goals in education and public programming, improved access and community outreach, and the innovative use of new technologies to fulfill its mission and more effectively engage the next generation of audiences, locally as well as internationally,” according to the press release.

The fundraising campaign is the largest in Philadelphia’s history, according to the museum, and in 2017 was reported to have raised $326 million of its $525-million goal.

Opening Celebration

In a flood of red-colored party streamers, Mayor Jim Kenney, PMA board members and leaders, Frank Gehry, in addition to staff and students from Bache-Martin Elementary School, celebrated the official opening of the museum’s north entrance on Sept. 18.

The refurbished, redesigned and rethought entrance and hallway features 24-foot-high ceilings and is finished in warm-toned Kasota limestone, bronze, glass and wood. The new entrance is also reported to feature school-bus drop-off spaces, while the hallway leads to new educational areas including classroom studios for children.

“I’ve come here a lot over the years to look at the great collection,” stated Gehry.

“The world needs to see all this stuff, it needs to be out there. The job became making a place to show that stuff and not screw up Trumbauer’s vision, which is overpowering, and how to use it, take advantage of it. Once this next phase is over, the clarity of it will be apparent. For me it’s been a great honor to do this. It’s not something that I planned in my life to spend all this time on resurrecting another architect’s dream. But I’m happy I did it.”

Gail Harrity, PMA President and Chief Operating Officer, added, “This part of the project reveals, perhaps more than anything else, Frank Gehry’s genius as a planner.

“The largest investment in this phase of the facilities master plan is the upgrade and installation of new building systems, all of which are hidden from public view, and yet are vital to preserving the collections, for future generations to enjoy. Gehry partners has gone to great lengths both to respect the architectural integrity of this landmark building and, at the same time, to adapt it to present and future needs.”

The entire project is slated to be complete by fall 2020.


Tagged categories: Architects; Architectural history; Architecture; Color + Design; Frank Gehry; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; Maintenance + Renovation; Museums; Museums; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Projects - Commercial; Renovation

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