My reading companion of 17 years, Kenya


Philly is my hometown.  I moved away a long time ago when I moved to Hawaii, but I always go back at least twice a year. At some point I will return permanently to the city and will most likely become a volunteer tour guide.  Officially Philadelphia means The City of Brotherly Love,  but it is also considered the City of Fountains, the City of Murals, the City of Outdoor Art, the City of Parks and a City of Architecture - both old and new. 

Renovating an Icon:

 While working in Philadelphia last year I attended one of the most dynamic , architectural exhibitions that I have ever seen and it was about the museum itself.  Philadelphia's golden temple of beauty, the Philadelphia Museum of Art,  that sits atop a hill on the eastern banks of the Schuylkill River,  had on display Frank Gehry's Master Plan for the icon's renovation. Both the plan and the exhibit  were amazing, utterly amazing.  
 Having grown up in Philadelphia I understand the significance of this project and that it is the first expansion of the building's footprint since 1928.  When I first heard about the renovation  I was struck with fear, and grew more apprehensive  when I learned  that the architect chosen for this project was Frank Gehry.   Really?   Frank Gehry  is a world renowned architect known for such contemporary and modern public spaces as the Guggenheim Museum  in Bilbao, Spain and the Louis Vuitton Art Museum which opens this month, but the Philadelphia Museum of Art  with its Ionic and Corinthian columns is a Classical Icon and one of the most beloved buildings in Philadelphia.   I wasn't sure how Gehry's  style was going to enhance this structure.  Fortunately for me,  I had a project that kept me in Philly for a few months during which time I was able to visit the special exhibit  that displayed  Gehry's  vision.  
The  display at the museum was  phenomenal in its presentation.  It was also immediately evident that Gehry  understood the significance of this landmark building. Throughout the room, the placement of large scaled models, photographs,  and videos all served  to engage the visitor in a conversational dialogue to comprehend the approach taken for this project.  Staff members were on hand to answer questions and explain aspects of the design.  

The East entrance is the most dramatic entrance to the museum.  It faces towards City Hall on top of  which William Penn stands, and  can easily be approached by walking  Philly's most cultural mile, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.  Currently when you walk into the East entrance,  you start your experience in the Great Stair Hall gazing up at Diana, Roman Goddess of the Hunt,  sporting her arrow at the top between two ionic columns.  This is one of my earliest childhood memories.  I admit, I would be quite sad if this had changed,  but, hooray,  it does stay intact.  I am not alone in my visceral connection to this space,  to this building.
Looking at the models it was apparent that Gehry had envisioned minimal changes to the East exterior of the structure.  Gehry's plan goes beneath the surface to create new galleries through the better utilization of space as well as an expansion of the footprint.  All new construction is in white in the models.  Entrance at the East terrace is on the first floor.  The auditorium beneath the East terrace at the ground level will be replaced with a common public area being called "The Forum"  and new galleries that will display American and Contemporary/Modern  artworks.  To give additional light to those galleries, the East terrace will change to incorporate skylights into the terrace surface and sunken gardens on the terrace will be exposed below in the new galleries.  The ceiling height for the new galleries will be around 24-28'.  The fate of the majestic steps on the East side is still unknown. At the time of the exhibition, the design concept of cutting into the center of the famous steps in order  to give the visitor a view of the beautiful parkway, was not yet approved.  You know the steps I'm referring  to- the steps Rocky ran up.   This cross section of the building shows the inset into the steps if its approved.  Philly host a RockyRun every year and people from around the world participate in the event and take selfies with the Rocky stature on the grounds.  The race does not include going  to the top of the steps but runners do tend to do that after the race.  To some people, any change to these steps  is sacrilegious, so it's a hot topic and the debate races forward on that rocky road.
One of the most exciting elements of this project to me is the re-opening of the north side of the museum.  This is the Kelly Drive entrance and provides access to a fabulous vaulted-corridor that was closed to the public sometime in the 1970s for needed work space.  Moving the back-office functions that are critical to the care, storage and movement of artworks into a new Art Handling Facility provided the ability to re-open this  space.

I have only skimmed the surface for this renovation.  The West entrance changes significantly. There's a new auditorium, a loft, and additional educational spaces to name a few items that I left out.  There are many more interesting and inspiring concepts such as glass curved stairway leading up to a glass bridge in the new galleries beneath the East terrace.  The curved glass staircase and bridge are one of the few signature elements  for Gehry that I saw in the interior. 
If you would like to know more about the Philadelphia Museum of Art's renovation just go to  That's a good place to start.   There  is plenty of time to catch up.  Because of the scope and cost of this project, there are several phases on the road to completion.   

Parklets on Philly's Cityscape:

 Philadelphia has always been a city of parks and outdoor art. It has parks everywhere between high rise buildings, on street corners and in the center of blocks. It's a walking city so unless you're on foot you can easily miss many of the urban parks.  And Philly is now involved in a new kind of outdoor seating design for urban dwellers: the parklet.

What is a parlet?  It's a small urban setting about the size of two parking spaces and is often created to replace under-utilized parallel parking areas within the city.  Recently the students of Moore and Drexel  University were asked to participate in a design endeavor to create an urban parklet with a given space parameter of 8' by 48' which is about 2 parking spaces.  Other project requirements were: designers had to use materials that are 100% repurposeable and it had to be quickly and easily disassembled since space is a high commodity and very limited within cityscapes. Take a look at the space below.  It was designed  by Katie McHugh and Megan Mitchell both students in the MS Interior Architecture + Design program at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

Parklet Designed for Race Street

Materials used:
77 repurposed acrylic panels, bamboo, and maple beams.

In the words of the designers, Katie McHugh and Megan Mitchell:
"Light is the agent of time and creates the natural rhythm of our days. By creating a shift of cool to warm light in our parklet, we reference the changing colors of the sun's light throughout the day. The intensity of the colors and the shift are meant to be a strong, if brief antidote, to the interior light of a city office..."

 Philadelphia debuts its first parklet outside of The Free Libray on Logan::

The Free Library of Philadelphia:

There is no other public building more significant in my life than this jewel designed in the Beaux-Arts Style of Architecture. When I was a child from about 9 years old to 16 when I started working, this building was my home away from home, so I usually go down to visit  its regal chambers and lose myself in its many book collections..

The Free Library of Philadelphia on Vine Street at the entrance of the Franklin Parkway is the central library and has about 54 branches throughout the city.  It is one of the greatest libraries in the United States. Not only because of its phenomenal Rare Book Department which actually houses the paneled Georgian room that once sat in the home of the famous Philadelphia collector WilliamMcIntireElkins, or its grandiose staircase from which heights William Pepper the founder sits looking towards the entrance.  This Library always has a great exhibit such as the Dickens which is now going on and it well used by Philadelphians on a daily bases for lectures and storytelling times.  It is a core part of the Philadelphia lifestyle, not just a building.with WiFi and Internet access as well as the written word. It's part of the scene

Grand Staircase in the Free Library of Philadelphia

walking up towards the next level

Hundred's of books etc.  in hallway display cases towards the Reading Rooms 

Down the staircase towards the front entrance

Random Images of  Philly:

From the steps of the Franklin Institute

Walking towards William Penn and City Hall

Dancing in Rittenhouse Sq

St. Clement's Church

Swann Memorial  Fountain in Logan Square
Depicting the three rivers surrounding Philly

Walking through Rittenhouse Sq

Mural at 20th by Parkway

Looking towards City Hall from
 the Rodin Museum
on the Parkway

Rose Valley, Pa. - (Delaware County)
This is one of  Philadelphia's  most beautiful old historic sections.   Quaker farmers settled the area in the 1600s and later it was founded as a Arts and Crafts Community by architect Will Price around 1900.  It's a beautiful area to drive around.  Below are some pictures of the homes there including the Hedgerow Theatre.  Arts and Crafts is my favorite architectural style so I  just love roaming in this section of town. Several homes in the borough are built in the 1700 and 1800's.  The Hedgerow Theatre is an active theatre and is located in a building that was once a mill that produced bobbins for a textile mill in town.   

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