Recently, the College of Engineering Alumni Association organized a behind-the-scenes hard hat tour of the Philadelphia Museum of Art Core Project. 

Envisioned by visionary architect Frank Gehry, the Philadelphia Museum of Art Core Project is about one-year into its multi-year implementation of the Museum's Facilities Master Plan. It will add 67,000 square feet of new public space, an additional 11,500 square feet to display American art and an equal amount of gallery space for the presentation of contemporary art.

The tour started with an historical overview of the museum and it's unique location and position—bordered by a river on one side and roads on the other three—meaning there isn't much room to grow outward or upward. So, engineers and planners, guided by Gehry's plan, dug down into the solid granite hillside where the museum is perched.

The tour took attendees throughout the worksite, including the vaulted walkway originally built to accommodate a subway stop and closed in the 1970s. It will be reopened to lead visitors into new educational space. 

The project is meant to facilitate the renewal or replacement of antiquated building systems; the reorganization of the interior to improve wayfinding and the addition of new amenities to enhance the visitor experience; and the addition of new gallery space to accommodate a growing collection—all while the museum stays open to its more than 600,000 annual visitors. 

"It's almost like building on a partial basement since a lot of that was un-excavated. So, essentially, what we're doing is enlarging the basement of the building while the building is full of priceless art and hundreds of thousands of visitors every year," added Capital Projects Engineer Charlie Williams. "So, there's a lot of very unique structural engineering feats happening underneath us." 

Check out some of the photos below of the tour and renderings of the Core Project.

Hard Hat Tour of Philadelphia Art Museum Core Project

Special thanks to the College of Engineering Alumni Association and Charlie Mumford for organizing the tour, along with Philadelphia Museum of Art Capital Projects Engineer Charlie Williams and Director of Development Jonathan Peterson, and the project team from LF Driscoll for leading the tour.