Is Frank Gehry Really “Apollo Creed-Level Bad for Philadelphia”?

Art Museum and expansion, seen in section. (Philadelphia Museum of Art/Gehry Partners)

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.”

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Art Museum to Unveil Frank Gehry-Led Expansion

“The architect Frank Gehry’s design for a renovation and expansion of the Philadelphia Museum of Art will be unveiled on July 1 in an exhibition at the museum on Benjamin Franklin Parkway,” the New York Times reports. “The show, ‘Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art,’ will offer a first look at the architect’s large-scale models, site plans, sections and renderings of the project.”
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