When Frank Gehry’s renovation of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is complete, the iconic institution won’t necessarily look like one of his signature works—at least from the outside. The architect isn’t touching the icon’s Beaux-Arts exterior, but is, instead, transforming the museum’s interior to improve circulation and boost gallery space. But even then, Gehry’s work won’t be all that “Gehry.” AN recently toured the museum’s exhibit on Gehry’s masterplan and got a chance to hear from the man himself about the museum renovations.
Gehry’s staircase. (Courtesy Gehry Partners) A model of the building’s exterior. (Henry Melcher / AN)
On the tour, Gehry explained how he reimagined the building’s interior with a distinctive signature, but one that is inspired by the building’s DNA. “I think if it’s built, you’ll know somebody like me was here,” he said.
This renovation has been a long time coming. And it will be a long time still before it’s finally realized. The idea to update the museum was born in the 1990s and completing Gehry’s entire overhaul could take 10–15 years more.
“If they wait five years, I’ll be 90,” Gehry said. “So for me, get going.”
Given his age, and his storied career, AN asked Gehry about what else he wants to accomplish. “I’m so superstitious,” he said before explaining that he wants to increase his involvement in arts education. He mentioned his participation in the Turnaround Arts initiative—a presidential program, which aims to close the achievement gap through arts and music education.New gallery space. (Courtesy Gehry Partners)
He told a story about going into a school in California and teaching kids how to plan and imagine cities. Gehry added that children are often marginalized in “ghetto schools.”
“That’s what I’m interested in, that kind of stuff,” said Gehry. “I am also designing a sailboat.” Which, of course seems entirely appropriate given his predilection for sailing. He does, after all, already own a boat called FOGGY, which stands for his initials: Frank Owen Gehry. These days, it seems, every starchitect needs a boat in his or her oeuvre. Hear that Zaha and Norman? Frank will see you at the regatta.