By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) —     A long-planned renovation and expansion of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is still many years and hundreds of millions of dollars from being realized, but art lovers will have a chance to see what world-renowned architect Frank Gehry has in mind for the venerated landmark when the exhibit “Making a Classic Modern: Frank Gehry’s Master Plan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art” opens there on July 1st.

Museum director Timothy Rub says the plan covers everything from updating electrical systems to adding 169,000 square feet of total space (including 78,000 feet of gallery space), all without altering the way the building’s looks from the outside.

“It’s one of the most widely recognized museums in the world and it’s full of wonderful and interesting spaces,” says Rub. “On the other hand, it’s a building that was designed nearly 100 years ago, at a time when museums worked in very different ways.”


(TImothy Rub, in his office at the art museum.  Photo by Pat Loeb)

(TImothy Rub, in his office at the art museum. Photo by Pat Loeb)



“When this building opened in 1928, the collection was rather small,” he tells KYW Newsradio.  “Today we have one of the largest collections of any museum in the United States, with nearly 230,000 objects, so there’s a lot more we could share with our visitors if we had the space to do so.”

Rub says the project was a challenge to Gehry, best know for iconoclastic designs full of curves and twists, such as the Bilbao Museum, in Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, in Los Angeles.

But, Rub adds, Gehry has proved to be an excellent choice.

“We said to Frank, ‘There’s a lot to do here but, guess what, we have a landmark building that we really don’t want to change on the outside.  So whatever you do, it has to be within the building itself.’ ”


Hear the extended interview in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 6:38) …



Rub says Gehry’s plan includes excavating underneath the east terrace to create new space lit with a skylights and a large round window at the base of the fountain.

It also includes a redesign of the west entrance and the reopening of the monumental, arched north entrance, on Kelly Drive.   Closed to the public since the ’70s, it will provide access to the new galleries through a grand, vaulted corridor that runs 640 feet from the north to the south side of the building.

Small changes to the exterior are required by modern building codes that call for more exits, but Rub says they’ll be barely visible.   “This has been a carefully considered plan that honors the past but also looks to the future.”

Rub says the renovation will be done in phases, with the first phase expected to take five to six years and cost at least $150 million.

No date has been set to begin that phase.