Museum of Art Breaks Ground On $196M Expansion Project in Philadelphia

Mon March 27, 2017 - National Edition
Katherine Scott - ABC 6

The plan will be rolled out in phases to help update the existing building and add features like a forum space and future exhibits.
The plan will be rolled out in phases to help update the existing building and add features like a forum space and future exhibits.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art opened to the public in 1928 and, as it approaches its 100th birthday, the museum will officially break ground Thursday on its $196-million core project to improve and expand.

"The core project, as it suggests, really starts at the heart of the museum," Museum Director Timothy Rub said.

Rub says the comprehensive plan results from more than a decade of work and was developed by architect Frank Gehry.

"It's an extraordinary design and one that both respects the building, but makes it ready for the next 100 years," Rub said.

As evidenced by the equipment at the museum, work has already begun.

The plan is vast. It includes a vaulted walkway running from the Kelly Drive side of the museum, which will serve as the primary entrance.

Lenfest Hall, at the west entrance, will be renovated.

The auditorium is being removed and a two-story public space, known as 'The Forum,' will be created.

"Eventually, we'll be expanding the museum down at the lower level and we need to be able to get people down there," Rub said.

Repurposing both sides of the central section will add more than 23,000 square feet of new gallery space.

"We need more space for American art, and indeed that will benefit from this expansion," Rub said.

Most of the public collections will remain accessible before the core project's completion in 2020, but you will see some closures along the way as the museum is updated and reorganized.

"It will make the experience of the museum more legible, more understandable for visitors who sometimes get lost in this great big and wonderful place," Rub said.

On Thursday, the museum will officially unveil the plan to the public. Admission will be pay what you wish, and you can come and get a hard hat tour or watch videos to learn more about what will be happening at the museum. You will also be able to take a closer look at the model, which includes plans for future phases.

For more information, visit

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