Here’s a Model of What Frank Gehry Wants to Do to the Art Museum Steps

One of the plans for the Frank Gehry expansion of the Philadelphia Museum of Art completely redesigns the iconic steps.


Image via Reddit

This morning I came across the above image, posted on Twitter via Reddit. The Art Museum is calling it a “an option for consideration.” But, yes, this is what Frank Gehry wants to do to the iconic Art Museum steps.

Honestly, it looks awesome, but it also takes away a lot of the, erhm, iconic-ness of the museum’s steps. (Though picturing Rocky running right into that glass wall is pretty great.) And that’s one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, and a thing that people all over the world know about Philadelphia. It’s stupid, of course — it’s a movie — but the reason the Art Museum steps are vibrant is because of all the tourists who run up them, whether they enter the museum or not. Would that change by completely redoing the steps?

One thing that is sure: You’ll be hearing a lot of obnoxious commentary about this plan (which will be unveiled to the public on July 1st)! Feel free to start in the comments, if you’d like.

[Reuters | Photo via]

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  • William Rhodes

    I absolutely love it. TURN THE SIDE FOUNTAINS BACK ON TOO!

  • jt

    Don’t mess with the Rocky mystique. Tens of millions of visitors to Philadelphia wouldn’t even know the Art Museum existed without that movie and the iconic steps. Thus, they show up and a few actually go into the museum to discover it’s wonderful treasures.

  • richard

    some things are best being left alone …don’t mess with success, leave the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps alone.. go find something else to do with your time.

  • scarlet

    Leave the steps as is….. no need to mess with them and destroy history or the original architectural plan.

  • Antony

    Leave them as is but repair the side fountains replacing it with solar powered closed system that recycles the water.

  • metroeco

    Surely the most urgent use of our funds. I approve as long as there are flanking statues of malnourished children, shivering families, homeless junkies, uneducated punks, and the corrupt politicians who make this possible.

  • citywide

    Besides change for changes sake, whats the point of all this? Whats trying to be accomplished by this change? Is it something more then just having another entrance to the museum? (which in a few years would probably be closed most of the time)
    Doesn’t the word option suggest that more then one plan is being considered, and if so, what are the other plans? Maybe its this plan or nothing. Could the doorway be smaller, maybe it could be at the bottom of the steps instead of half way up the stairs.
    One change I really don’t like is the two fire towers on the ends of the museums two wings that face the Parkway. If there isn’t a way to put them inside the present building envelope why not make them larger and make then out of glass. If they can’t be hidden then don’t hid them! Figure out a way to acknowledge that they are of this period of time, but do so in a way that respects the beauty of the museum.

    • kclo3

      The primary purpose is for expansion of gallery space for modern exhibitions, which has been a problem for the Museum for decades. Only a portion of the museum’s 225,000-piece collection is out at any time.

      • citywide

        I understand the idea of getting more gallery space, and I think underground is a good way to go (did it really take 10 years to figure that out?). My questions were more directed to he change in the stairs; what problem is this idea the answer for?

  • Coleen McCrea Katz

    It’s not “awesome” at all!! It’s, in fact, atrocious! It looks like some prehistoric monster took a bite out of the steps. Ridiculous!

  • John Dix

    I’m in agreement with the change. Yes, Rocky is an icon but it’s a movie icon of the 1970’s/1980’s. Philly will never be taken seriously if we not change a design because of a movie. At the end of the day, it is a MOVIE, movies are fictional! Besides, if you want a piece of nostalgia, there’s always the Rocky statue.

  • David

    It doesn’t appear to really be adding any value. It’s different, but not particularly awe inspiring

  • Fuzziness

    Why is it that some folks see the need to change stuff for the sake of changing it? I bet Frank Gehry is the type of guy that moves the couches in his living room around from time to time because it drives him nuts when things stay the same. I agree with the poster saying we should basically modernize and update not rip and replace.

  • Sue

    Why do people insist on changing historical sites. Leave it alone!!!! I

  • Tark Blimtrep

    What I find ironic is that most of the protests come from people who have rarely, if not at all, perhaps only once in their lives, actually went INSIDE the Art Museum. Hollywood doesn’t even preserve movie sets. Why should a world class museum limit its notoriety and fame to a scene in a 1970’s fictional movie?

    • bob krzenski

      Tark, damn shame..isn’t it! careful though man’
      you have to remember, your talking to a certain group, that believe’s
      Philly is no better..than the last Rocky movie…

    • karlub

      And how, exactly, would you know that, Tark? Psychic?

  • bob krzenski

    Typical Philly mindset’ ..change!..why the hell do we want to do that! that’s right’ keep that statue of a 5 ft 2 in B actor..running up the Museum steps, with beef-fat on his knuckles..shit’ it’s Philly man’’ve been going backward since the 50’s..

    Now..for the Moron’s asking, why change the Art Museum steps”

    did ya ever think about.. reading the reasons for such an endeavor..did ya ?

    I’ll do the leg work for ya….1. is the redesign concept & and the reason for it.

    2. is an article about a little known Museum in Paris..called the Louvre.

  • Rob

    What a giant waste of taxpayers money & a disgrace to an iconic symbol of Philadelphia.

    • roma258

      Where does it say that taxpayer money is being spent?

  • carltondavis

    I am from an another state and I remember it was a long and difficult climb to get into the museum. I believe making the entrance more accessible would be a good thing. Gehry’s plan looks reasonable to me. If the steps are so important to the celebration of Rocky, why isn’t the Rocky statue located on the steps and not at the side in a small grass area. I think Philadelphia should go ahead with this plan, but place the Rocky statue where it belongs at the top of the stairs, which is where he celebrated his achievement of running up those damn steps.

    • Mickey Goldmill

      It _WAS_ at the top of the stairs. Then some people freaked because it’s a movie prop, not “art”. So now it’s down at the base of the stairs, off to one side, which does seem more appropriate.

      • carltondavis

        See the statue as Pop Art, i.e. Popular Art, so what if it was a movie prop or not. The museum shouldn’t be so elitist. So much of contemporary art is about popular culture. Think Andy Warhol, I bet the museum has a piece of his. And no architect embraced this kind of thinking more than Frank Gehry. He exposed the studs on his early projects. He incorporated chain link fence. He created Fish sculptures with scales. I worked for him in the 1980’s, when he was just becoming internationally famous and was doing work with Claus Oldenburg. Maybe the the museum should ask Claus, I think he is still alive, to add a giant soft Boxing Glove nearby the statue. Now that would be something

  • Flyboy413

    Instead of “improving” the look of the already iconic and perfectly designed museum, How about we use that money for stuff that actually matter? Our schools are already underfunded, our infrastructure is RIDICULOUSLY in disrepair, potholes galore, thousands of homeless, not to mention thousands of unoccupied properties, and all we’re worried about is the museum, that already looks absolutely beautiful. I think these mere add-ons are just a waste of time.

  • A “Natural”

    A new ice skating rink in front of city hall and new unnecessary “improvements” to the museum… Yet and still public grade schools and universities lose funding. Who needs education when the steps can be pretty to look at? Oh and in the midst of these million dollar projects, just ignore the construction than needs to be done on the millions of potholes around the city…

    • citywide

      As true as the problems are that you mention, making changes at the museum doesn’t necessarily take money away from other more public funded issues—-schools, the homeless, potholes, unemployment,—-the list is endless. My guess is that even though the museum building is City owned, most of the money will be privately raised.

  • Balla Bo

    The trendy elite swoon, the well-connected see green, and the rest of us roll our eyes and shake our heads at this turkey of a design. Might as well put in a monorail while you’re at it.

  • ICDogg

    This won’t happen.

    Too many people will want to keep it the same.

    The other expansion changes, which do not affect the steps, will probably be done, and no one will raise a stink about them.

    I suspect this is a manufactured controversy to bring some attention to the museum, and they really aren’t planning on making this change.

  • Harry Kyriakodis

    Here’s what I wrote about the steps in my latest book (it’s an Arcadia postcard history book on the Ben Franklin Parkway, due out July 7, 2014, The top of the art museum’s front steps offer a commanding view of the Parkway and the Philadelphia skyline. While already exceptional, the 72 stone steps achieved worldwide prominence with the 1976 release of the film Rocky. Since then, visitors from all corners of the globe have come to run triumphantly up the ascent as Sylvester Stallone did in his Oscar-winning movie (and four of its sequels). In March 2014, Rocky was shown inside the museum for the first time.

  • #SaveOurSteps

    Please, reconsider the destruction of the iconic parkway steps. For all those interested in asking the museum to stop this destruction, sign the petition