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“Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art” provides viewers with a look into the acclaimed architect’s plans to redevelop and expand the museum. A controversial task as the museum is one of Philadelphia’s most iconic buildings, Gehry and his team have developed a plan to add more than 169,000 square feet of exhibition space to allow better displays of PMA’s American, Asian, Modern, and Contemporary art collections. Rather than significantly altering the exterior view of the infamous building, most of the adaptation will come from the interior, including the excavation of 55,000 square feet under its East Terrace. But the main concern for the architect and for the museum was to maintain the sanctity of the outside and to understand the nature of the building.
“Making a Classic Modern” serves as an overview of Gehry’s body of work and his plans for the museums redesign. Broken into four sections, the exhibition starts with a documentation of the museum grounds before the existence of its now iconic stairs. It then moves into highlights of Gehry’s other major projects including the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The third and main section of the exhibition features the models and goals for the reorganization. In the final section, viewers can see a selection of works from the collections benefitting most from the expansion.
George D. Widener Director and CEO for the museum Timothy Rub explained that “the key is opening up the very heart of the museum and opening up that access through it.” Gehry’s plan intends to enhance the vertical circulation of the building as well as the visitor experience through easier access to the collections and mobility through the museum.
“Making a Classic Modern” is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through September 1.