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Making A Classic Modern:
Frank Gehry’s Master Plan for
the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Learn more about the major renovation and expansion the for city’s iconic structure

Making A Classic Modern

The Philadelphia Museum of Art's famous steps will remain during the extensive renovations and expansion. Credit: Gehry Partners, LLP


July 1-September 1, 2014


After nearly 90 years on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art is about to undergo a major renovation and expansion.

Helmed by celebrated architect Frank Gehry, the ambitious multi-phase project will see both major and minor enhancements to the interior and exterior of the museum, touching every portion of the grand building.

Visitors can explore the entire scope of the grand plans during Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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, when former Philadelphia Museum of Art director Anne d’Harnoncourt asked Gehry to head the project.

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.

Plans will not include obvious exterior changes (the famous steps will remain intact), as Gehry’s design aims to open the interior space and make the museum far more navigable to visitors and desirable for displays of fine art.

The Exhibition

An in-depth look at celebrated architect Frank Gehry’s vision for the future of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art showcases Gehry’s plans for transforming the interior of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Discover the great structure’s past, Gehry’s impressive project history and the architect’s plans for the renovation of the museum throughout the next years.

The first section takes visitors through the history of the construction and development of the museum via archival photography and anecdotes. Then, guests can take in a primer on Gehry himself, with an overview of his projects for other cultural institutions around the world.

The bulk of the exhibition, though, reveals Gehry’s plans to embrace the existing space while enhancing how visitors will move through the Museum with large-scale models, architectural drawings, photos and more. An impressive array of models and images offers up a snapshot of the museum’s future.

The exhibit also features a selection of key works from areas of the permanent collection that will benefit most from the expansion: American, Asian and modern and contemporary art.

Admission to Making a Classic Modern is included in regular museum access. Museum admission includes tickets for two consecutive days to the main Museum building, Perelman Building, Rodin Museum, and Historic Houses Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove.

For more information and to purchase tickets to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, click the button below.

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The Master Plan

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 alterations 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.

Timeline estimations for the execution of the Master Plan in its entirety range from 10 to 15 years.


2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130
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