Fine D(es)i(g)ning

Frank Gehry’s new restaurant, Stir, is set open at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Architecture East In Construction
Stir, coming this fall at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is the first Frank Gehry-designed fine dining experience open to the public on the East Coast. (Rendering by Gehry Partners and KX-L, Courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art)
Stir, coming this fall at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is the first Frank Gehry-designed fine dining experience open to the public on the East Coast. (Rendering by Gehry Partners and KX-L, Courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Frank Gehry’s $196 million masterplan for the Philadelphia Museum of Art will reveal its first signs of life this fall with the opening of Stir, the famed cultural institution’s new restaurant and cafeteria that will open to the public in October.

Operated by Starr Catering Group and led by Executive Chef Mark Tropea, Stir will offer museum-goers and guests a seasonal and locally-sourced menu inside a very Gehry, contemporary atmosphere. The design centers around a grid-like sculpture shaped out of Douglas fir slats and beams that extends from an undulating ceiling. The walls are also wrapped in Douglas fir panels while red oak covers the restaurant’s floors. Hints of frosted glass, felt, steel, leather, bronze, and onyx are also featured throughout the space, all coming together to create a warm and inviting setting. Gehry Partners will design the tables and chairs that will hold up to 76 people.

In addition to Stir, the firm will reimagine a new, full-service cafeteria for the museum that will seat 160 people. The space will extend the entire width of the building and include windows offering views of the East Terrace and its garden as well as the Schuylkill River on the west side. It will have stations for salads, sandwiches, and brick oven pizza. The museum’s North Entrance, which will open at street level in early 2019, will house a new espresso bar in the Vaulted Walkway that will also be accessible to the public. There, visitors can enjoy views of the building’s facades through the skylights above in a space that’s been closed off since the mid-1970s.

Gehry Partners will also design a new cafeteria for the museum seating up to 160 people. (Rendering by Gehry Partners and KX-L, Courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Gehry’s masterplan is part of the museum’s Core Project, a massive interior renovation of the neoclassical landmark built in 1928 which has long suffered from poor circulation and a lack of clear wayfinding. The redesign will add 67,000 square feet of new public space to the facility and an additional 23,000 square feet of gallery space, while also opening up the heart of the museum. Gehry will introduce a new central space, called the ‘Forum’, by removing the upper-level auditorium, thus heightening the ceiling and adding glass walls to create sightlines between The Great Stairs Hall and Lenfest Hall, the building’s grand lobbies that were previously completely disconnected.    

Construction on the Core Project began early last year and is expected to wrap up in 2020.  Stir will be open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday, from 11:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., and will offer brunch on Sunday from 11:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

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