Gehry’s Plans for Museum Would Reduce Number of “Rocky” Steps

But this ain't no Bilbao.

photo illustration of gehry and the art museum

What it won’t be: the image created in 2006, when Gehry was hired for the job.

We’ve been hearing whispers of specifics for a long time — since 2006, actually, when Frank Gehry was chosen for the job — but last week, the Philadelphia Museum of Art finally announced the exhibit “Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art” would open in July. Until then, the Inquirer’s Inga Saffron has a preview in her Changing Skyline column this week, the result of a conversation with Timothy Rub, the museum’s director, who’s been very tight-lipped about the project.

Here’s what we know, thanks to Saffron:

– Gardens and public space will replace surface lots on the west terrace
– Entrance doors will open at street level
– There will be new galleries to make room for sculpture and installation art
– There will be a glass staircase inside
– There will be a third entrance — no stairs
– The pathways through the museum will be much more open
– The museum will get more light inside
– The museum must raise $350 million
– “The Forum” will replace the auditorium
– There will be a glass bridge

Along with those changes, Saffron writes:

Gehry’s most daring idea involves cutting a chunk of the Rocky steps so a roughly 24-foot-high window can be inserted halfway up. It would form the east wall of the new gallery and offer views of the skyline. Toying with the iconic steps is sure to be controversial, but the museum should be allowed one daring move.


Overall, Saffron gives the plan a thumbs up: “It is a fine, thoughtful design, meticulous in its logic and attuned to a city that likes to march to its own drummer.”

So why has it taken so long? For a history of the plan’s development as well as other details (like when it’ll be done):

Changing Skyline: Gehry’s master plan for the Art Museum emerges