Museum PR Announcements News and Information

Philadelphia Museum of Art Announces Groundbreaking

Museum Announces Groundbreaking for New Art Handling Facility, Building Momentum for its Master Plan for Growth

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has broke ground on an approximately 68,000 square foot Art Handling Facility which represents a major step forward in the implementation of the Museum’s Master Plan. Designed by the renowned architect Frank Gehry as part of his brief for the Museum’s expansion, the $81 million Art Handling Facility will provide much-needed improvements to the back-of-house areas that are critical to the care, storage, and movement of the works of art in the Museum’s world-renowned collection.

This new facility—and the area affected by construction during the next two years—will be located along the south side on Anne d’Harnoncourt Drive facing Spring Garden Street and capped below the terrace level by a green roof. When this project is completed in late 2012, it will provide the opportunity to restore, and eventually reopen, a major public entrance on the north side of the Museum facing Kelly Drive which has been used for shipping and receiving since 1975. Additional public access at this level is a critical component of the Master Plan because it allows for the eventual expansion of the Museum’s galleries for special exhibitions and Modern and Contemporary art.

The new Art Handling Facility will consolidate and organize the delivery of all types of materials to the south side of the Museum. It will comprise several different delivery bays, one of which will be solely dedicated to the handling of works of art. The structure and materials of this new addition have been selected to maintain the architectural integrity of the Museum’s landmark building and will include stone that comes from the same quarry that was used more than 80 years ago to build the terraced walls around the Museum. It will improve circulation and many outdated interior spaces. This project will also meet the City of Philadelphia’s goals for energy efficiency, water management, and sustainable materials and the Museum’s requirements for environment control and security for art.

Constance H. Williams, Chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, stated: “The creation of this new Art Handling Facility is one of the most important steps we can take in renovating and improving our landmark Main Building and preparing this institution to meet the needs of the community in the future. It represents the first expansion of the building’s footprint since 1928 and will serve as the foundation for the Museum’s future.”

Timothy Rub, the George D. Widener Director and CEO, said: “I am delighted that we are now moving forward to implement this new phase of our Master Plan. This work is essential for the care of our collection and for the effective operation of the Museum. Today’s groundbreaking also demonstrates that we moving forward in a purposeful way to provide the proper stewardship—as we should—for this remarkable and historically important building as well as preparing the ground to serve the needs of the community in the decades to come.”

“Since the Museum’s Board of Trustees approved the Master Plan and Frank Gehry was selected as architect four years ago,” added Gail Harrity, the Museum’s President and COO, “the Museum has made steady progress, opening the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building across the street, completing extensive work on the Main Building’s façade and roof, opening a parking garage with a green roof and creating a beautiful new sculpture garden. Today’s groundbreaking represents one more key step, and it is a critical one in terms of preparing the building for changes that will enhance and transform the visitor’s experience of our collections.”

The program for the Art Handling Facility will consist of some 44,000 square feet in new construction, and 24,000 square feet including a loading dock facility and service yard of approximately 10,000 square feet, and museum operations of approximately 24,000 square feet adjacent to the loading dock for art storage and related art handling activities. The project also includes the renovation of 24,000 square feet of existing spaces within the current building footprint.

The new loading dock program will have three interior docks for the main museum consisting of:

A dock solely dedicated to works of art capable of accommodating an 80-foot tractor trailer in a securable interior space.
A facilities and operations dock capable of accepting a 60-foot tractor trailer.
A food services materials and goods dock capable of accepting food deliveries along with general materials handling.

The selected project materials incorporate stone cladding of the new loading dock designed to be in harmony with the natural rock outcroppings around the base of the building. The roof of the loading dock will be green and will permit the entry of natural daylight to the loading docks below. The landscaping will be informal and in harmony with the building and the rocky outcroppings that distinguish Fairmount and offer a screen to the street.

H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, Chairman Emeritus of the Board of Trustees, stated: “One of the things I observed in my years as Board Chairman was that great civic achievements so often result from bold public-private partnerships. That is what it took to establish this great museum building in 1928, and in this century it is what it will take to complete the vision for the Museum in the future.”


The Art Handling Facility will:

Increase the capacity of the Museum to accommodate major exhibitions, events, and the day-to-day deliveries critical to the efficient operations of a large and expanding Museum.
Locate all loading dock operations where they will have less impact on the public, on pedestrian and vehicular public access to the building, and on the presentation of the historic building on its site.
Improve the safety and security of the loading dock operations.
Improve truck movement and vehicular traffic conditions related to the loading dock operations.
Free up historic monumental spaces occupied by the existing loading dock to restore a public entrance to the Museum.
Allow the Museum to more than meet national museum best practices standards, achieving the goal to have a dedicated enclosed loading dock for all art materials.

In 2006, the Philadelphia Museum of Art selected Frank Gehry as architect for its Master Plan to renovate and dramatically expand the Museum’s Main Building. Gehry is acclaimed for projects ranging from the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain to Disney Hall in Los Angeles, and many other celebrated buildings around the world. Gehry’s challenge at the Philadelphia Museum of Art is to create dynamic new spaces for art and visitors alike while also honoring the classic exterior of a building that is already a defining landmark in Philadelphia. The project, which will be carried out through sequential phases over time, will add expansive new galleries for special exhibitions and contemporary art by excavating under the Museum’s East Terrace on the hill of Fairmount and will renovate the Museum’s existing interiors to create additional space for the display of its renowned collections. A total of 80,000 square feet of new public space—a 60% increase—is anticipated. The Museum’s special exhibitions galleries are projected to increase in size by 50%, enabling the Museum to more successfully accommodate a larger number of visitors.
The architect will design significantly expanded gallery space for the Museum’s collections, enabling both a broader and richer installation of the Museum’s first-rank holdings and anticipating collections growth. Contemporary art will vacate the space it currently shares with Modern art on the first floor, and will occupy new galleries (adjacent to the special exhibitions space) under the east terrace. The Museum’s deep and distinguished collection of Modern art by such masters as Picasso and Matisse will also be shown to much greater advantage than has heretofore been possible. Expanded galleries for American art will provide additional space for comprehensive collections that are now crowded into relatively small galleries. The Museum’s collection of Asian art, among the oldest and finest in the country, has seen remarkable growth in recent years. Expanded new Asian galleries will enable the Museum to present rarely exhibited and new collections. For the arts of India and the Himalayas, new space will also be created.
The restored and expanded Museum will enhance the visitor’s experience, and allow the Museum to increase the appeal and diversity of its programs. Frank Gehry’s brief also anticipates public spaces that will serve as crucial “connectors” in the visitor’s overall experience. Other spaces previously inaccessible to the public in the building will be reopened for the first time in decades, making room for a new education center, a new auditorium and Museum store, a new restaurant and cafeteria and a visitor orientation center. A new public floor will be created on the Kelly Drive level, reclaiming the existing and architecturally spectacular 500 foot-long vaulted walkway for visitor use, moving the loading dock from what originally was a public entrance hall facing Kelly Drive and the Perelman Building, and restoring that space as a major entryway for the public.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is among the largest art museums in the United States, showcasing more than 2,000 years of exceptional human creativity in masterpieces of painting, sculpture, works on paper, decorative arts and architectural settings from Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. An exciting addition is the newly renovated and expanded Perelman Building, which opened its doors in September 2007 with five new exhibition spaces, a soaring skylit galleria, and a café overlooking a landscaped terrace. The Museum offers a wide variety of enriching activities, including programs for children and families, lectures, concerts and films.

Image: Philadelphia Museum of Art

For additional information, contact the Communications Department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art at (215) 684-7860. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For general information, call (215) 763-8100 or visit the Museum’s website at

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *