Skip to main content Official Visitor And Travel Site

A Closer Look at Frank Gehry’s
Master Plan for the
Philadelphia Museum of Art

One of Philadelphia most iconic buildings is getting an update from one of the world’s most preeminent architects

For nearly 90 years, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has sat majestically at the end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway as the home of a world-class art collection and the third-largest art museum in the country.

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.

A long-time in the making, the museum is about to undergo an ambitious renovation, revitalization and expansion with the assistance of famed architect Frank Gehry.

The multi-phase, multi-year plan touch every part of the museum with a major focus on opening up the interior space and making it more navigable for visitors.

Learn more about the exciting developments below.

Changes to both the interior and exterior of the museum are included in Gehry’s Master Plan.

The Master Plan encompasses the entirety of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, from the East Entrance with its iconic “Rocky steps” facing Center City to the West Entrance overlooking the Schuylkill River. The renovations will reopen the museum’s North Entrance facing the Schuylkill River and Kelly Drive. Infrastructure updates will add an additional 124,000 square feet of public space to the museum and its galleries.

Exterior changes to the museum are planned to be minimal.

Gehry and Philadelphia-based landscape architecture, planning and design firm OLIN have planned a redesign of the plaza in front of the Museum’s West Entrance and a number of landscaping changes to bring new gardens and natural light to the museum. Any changes to the exterior have been carefully considered in order to make them as unobtrusive as possible.

The interior of the museum will see the most significant changes with several expansions and updates planned to improve the visitor experience.

To increase visitor flow and better show off the museum’s incredible art collection, the interior will see extensive updates including major renovations, the reopening of rarely-seen spaces and a brand-new space located underneath the iconic steps.

Main visitor entrances at Lenfest Hall and the Great Stair Hall will undergo major renovations during the project.

The Master Plan mainly focuses on the renovation museum’s two main entrance spaces and the creation of a new public space, or Forum, immediately below the Great Stair Hall in the center of the historic building.

A brand-new central space will be developed in the center of the building, underneath the Great Stair Hall.

Named The Forum, the new space will dramatically improve circulation at the center of the building, enabling visitors to reach the new galleries and adjacent public spaces proposed be built below the East Terrace.

An expansive set of new galleries is proposed underneath the East Terrace, creating an open space filled with natural light

One of the most ambitious parts of the plan is the proposed creation of 55,000 square feet of new space for special exhibitions and works from the collection underneath the East Terrace. Ranging in height from 24 to 28 feet, with a vaulted ceiling supported on slender columns, the new galleries will be among the largest and most spacious in the entire Museum.

Proposed cutouts on the East Terrace, the location of the iconic “Rocky Steps,” would enhance the new gallery space with spectacular skyline views.

Open in plan and filled with natural light, the new galleries underneath the East Terrace will provide an ideal setting for the display of modern and contemporary art.

The top floor of the museum will be renovated for event and meeting space, boasting dramatic city views upon completion.

The museum’s brick pediments would be adapted for incredible special event and meeting spaces offering sweeping views of the city skyline and Fairmount Park.

Previously closed to the public, the building’s majestic original vaulted corridor will be reopened to visitors.

Closed to the public for decades, this monumental arched entrance adjacent to Kelly Drive will be renovated to provide access to a grand vaulted corridor—part of the original design of the building—that runs 640 feet from the north to the south side of the building. This walkway will provide access to the new galleries through a long, vaulted arcade and will intersect with the Forum directly below the Great Stair Hall giving visitors access to the entire building.

To be tackled in phases, the ambitious project is expected to be fully completed by the museum’s centennial in 2028.

While the exact timeline is unknown and the projects have not yet been finalized, it is expected the museum will be updated and expanded in time for it’s centennial celebration in 2028.

Watch to Learn More about the Master Plan

Listen to Frank Gehry discuss his Master Plan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the video below.


More Top Picks in Philadelphia


By using this site, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.

Go To Top
Hotel Deal Alert: Get FREE PARKING when you book the Visit Philly Overnight Package!
See Package Details
Free Hotel Parking
$40 in Dining Gift Cards
Free Bike Share and PHLASH Passes
FREE Roller Skating at the RiverRink
Click here to book