In a City Lab piece titled “Philly: Let’s Talk About Frank Gehry,” Kriston Capps writes that Gehry “might be Apollo Creed-level bad for Philadelphia.” Them’s fighting words. Literally.
Capps’ commentary coincides with today’s opening of Gehry’s exhibit at the Art Museum that shows the architect’s plans for his expansion (renderings below), which includes a reworking of the famous “Rocky” steps. So far, the reaction to the expansion has been muted; if anything, it seems to be a relief that we won’t be getting some kind of crazy glass octagonal, pyramidal, Pythagorean, cut-glass, sharp-edged bean pod. Gehry’s interior changes sound — from Inga Saffron’s review of the plans — like they’ll make navigation of the museum and access to the artwork better.
In fact, Capps agrees that even Gehry haters “may find plenty to admire in his plans for the Art Museum. Frankly, it’s not very Gehry.”
So it’s not the architecture per se that engenders this comparison to Apollo Creed. It’s the role Gehry has been chosen to play within what Capps sees as a problematic context. He writes: “Cultural expansions aren’t necessarily a great investment for a city in 2014, and this one almost certainly isn’t.”