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Core Project and It Starts Here Campaign Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Facilities Master Plan?

The Facilities Master Plan was first envisioned in 2004, when the Museum’s staff and trustees recognized the need to renew and improve the several buildings that housed its collection and to plan for the expansion of the institution. In 2006, the Museum announced the selection of Frank Gehry as the architect of its new Facilities Master Plan, asking him to address a number of challenges: improving aging infrastructure, providing much-needed space for the display of a growing collection, reorganizing the building to address present and future programmatic needs, and enhancing the visitor experience.

Frank Gehry’s Facilities Master Plan provides a thoughtful blueprint for the renovation, reorganization, and expansion of the Museum’s landmark main building. It will be implemented in phases, as time and resources permit. When completed, the plan will add more than 169,000 square feet of space (inclusive of the Core Project). Gehry’s design will renovate the interior of one of Philadelphia’s most beloved buildings while respecting its distinctive character and architectural integrity. Many of the changes will be made within the building’s existing footprint. These include improved circulation and the relocation of key functions, the renovation of important public spaces, and the upgrading of building systems that are necessary for both the stewardship of the Museum’s collection and the enhancement of the visitor experience. The plan is comprehensive, informed by a vision in which every part has been considered in relation to the whole.

After Gehry Partners was selected in 2006, work began on the concept and schematic design of the Facilities Master Plan. Simultaneously, the Museum completed a number of major capital projects to address the Museum’s immediate facilities needs. These needs included the relocation of non-public functions (i.e., offices and art storage) to other facilities to create more room in the main building for programming and the display of the collection. In 2007, it opened the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building, a historic Art Deco building renovated and expanded by Gluckman Mayner Architects. A thorough cleaning and repair of the exterior facade of the main building was completed in 2009. This included the restoration of the blue-tiled roof and metalwork and window grilles by Tiffany Studios, overseen by Vitetta. In 2012, the Museum opened a new 68,000-square-foot Art Handling Facility designed by Gehry Partners, providing much-needed improvements to back-of-house areas for the care, storage, and movement of the works of art in the collection.

What is the “Core Project”?

As its name suggests, the Core Project—the current phase in the implementation of the Facilities Master Plan—focuses on renovating the very heart of the building. Its impact will be transformative.

The Core Project will include:

  • A total of 90,000 sq. ft. to open to visitors, including 23,000 gross sq. ft. of gallery space (10,000 sq. ft. for Contemporary art and 10,000 sq. ft. for American art) and 67,000 sq. ft. of public space (30,000 sq. ft. on Level C for the North and South Lobbies, the Vaulted Walkway, the Education Studios and coat check and 37,000 sq. ft. for the multilevel Forum, Lenfest Hall, restrooms, retail, corridors and coat check).

  • Removal of the auditorium to open a west–east axis from Lenfest Hall to the East Entrance and to create a spectacular Forum, located just below the Great Stair Hall. The Forum will function as both a circulation hub and a public gathering place.

  • A grand new staircase that will be a feature of the Forum that connects the historic 640-foot-long Vaulted Walkway to the floors above. Coupled with the provision of new and restored elevators, this will substantially improve circulation at the center of the main building.

  • The reopening to the public and schoolchildren of the North Entrance, which faces Kelly Drive and the Perelman Building. This entrance includes a grand lobby and leads to the Vaulted Walkway, which runs through the heart of the building, creating a north–south axis through the Forum.

  • New education classrooms and art studios equipped with digital projection capabilities.

  • The addition of new gallery space within the existing building dedicated to American art and contemporary art, and the relocation of corridors to the perimeter, providing expansive views of the East Terrace, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and Philadelphia’s skyline.

  • Major investments in infrastructure, including the comprehensive renewal or replacement of systems to increase energy efficiency and the implementation of enhanced information, security, and fire and life-safety building systems.

  • Other sustainable, green features, including cost-effective LED lighting, improved insulation, double-glazed windows, environmentally responsible water management and treatment methods, and the use of recycled materials.

  • The provision of ramps at key points inside and outside the building to ensure that the Museum is ADA compliant and more accessible to visitors with physical disabilities.

  • Enhanced amenities to improve the visitor experience, including new food and dining options and restrooms.

What is the It Starts Here campaign?

It Starts Here: Campaign for the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a $525 million fundraising initiative intended to strengthen the Museum’s endowment, support strategic initiatives in programming and operations, and renew its landmark building. The campaign enables the Museum to move boldly forward, providing enhancements to attract new audiences while strengthening its core functions. This is the largest cultural fundraising campaign in Philadelphia’s history.

Why is the Philadelphia Museum of Art conducting the It Starts Here campaign now?

The Museum’s most recent campaign, The 2001 Fund, ended in 2004. In the fall of 2012, the Museum completed a comprehensive strategic plan. Approved by the Board of Trustees in December 2013, the strategic plan prepared the groundwork for the philanthropic goals of the It Starts Here campaign. The Museum seeks to secure additional financial resources in order to realize its strategic objectives and strengthen key activities such as the care and presentation of its collection and educational programming.

What are the top priorities of the It Starts Here campaign?

The campaign focuses on building the Museum’s endowment to a level commensurate with the quality of its collections and programming; funding the completion of the Core Project of its Facilities Master Plan; and providing significant operating support that will allow the Museum to realize its strategic objectives and maintain a balanced operating budget.

When will the It Starts Here campaign conclude?

The campaign has an ambitious timeline: we aim to complete it the next couple of years.

How will the visitor experience change during the construction process of the Core Project?

Throughout the Core Project, the Museum remains open to the public, with a series of exhibitions, programs, and operations continuing as usual. The Museum is the preeminent arts institution in Philadelphia. The Museum continues to connect and collaborate with over 100 organizations across the city, from the University of Pennsylvania and Project HOME to the Free Library and Taller Puertorriqueño. Some 65,000 schoolchildren and 4,000 teachers turn to the Museum for arts education. All Philadelphia public and charter school students receive free admission. The Museum audience is getting younger, with the median age visitor being in the 30s, down from age 45 in 2008.

Were other architects considered for the Core Project? Why was Frank Gehry selected as the architect?

As is standard practice, the Museum sent requests for proposal to a number of architectural firms. Gehry Partners was one of three finalists invited by the Architect Selection Committee to submit working proposals. The final selection of Gehry and his team was confirmed by the Board of Trustees in 2006.

Gehry is a brilliant planner with a sophisticated understanding of and deep appreciation for the architecture of the Museum’s main building and the collections it houses. His vision for the project is based on an appreciation of the original design of the 1928 building and is consistent with the character of its original plan and architectural language. While many people think of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, as most representative aspect of Gehry’s approach to museum design, his thoughtful renovation and expansion of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, most closely parallels the approach he took to this project. This is the first Gehry project in Philadelphia.


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We are Philadelphia’s art museum. A landmark building. A world-renowned collection. A place that welcomes everyone. We bring the arts to life, inspiring visitors—through scholarly study and creative play—to discover the spirit of imagination that lies in everyone. We connect people with the arts in rich and varied ways, making the experience of the Museum surprising, lively, and always memorable. We are committed to inviting visitors to see the world—and themselves—anew through the beauty and expressive power of the arts.

For additional information, contact the Communications Department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art phone at 215-684-7860, by fax at 215-235-0050, or by e-mail at pressroom@philamuseum.org. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 26th Street. For general information, call (215) 763-8100.