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Inside the Art Museum’s Frank Gehry-designed restaurant

Stir opens to the public today

Photo: Jeffrey Totaro, courtesy, Philadelphia Museum of Art

A new, Frank Gehry-designed restaurant, opens in the Philadelphia Art Museum today, marking the first major completion of the famous architect’s master plan for the museum.

The 76-person restaurant, called “Stir,” sits in the back of the museum’s ground floor, and offers up a number of clearly Gehry-esq touches. An undulating Douglas fir ceiling is accented by a curved wood latticework that museum officials refer to as “the nest.” There’s warm lighting, red oak floors, and a sleek, open kitchen so you can see the chefs work.

“The ebullient Gehry touch will be seen in a palette of materials that includes frosted glass, felt, steel, leather, bronze, and onyx,” the museum said in a statement on the restaurant.

Photo: Jeffrey Totaro, courtesy, Philadelphia Museum of Art

In addition to its striking interior, the restaurant offers an array of seasonal, locally sourced foods for brunch and lunch only, many with French and Italian inspirations. There are the marinated Jersey plums with stracciatella cheese ($10), seared Barnegat scallops with caper salsa verde ($29), and pan roasted Pennsylvania trout with eggplant provençal ($22).

The restaurant, under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Mark Tropea, is actually the first and only Frank Gehry-designed space that offers fine dining on the east coast.

Marinated Jersey Plums
Photo: Steve Legato, courtesy, Philadelphia Museum of Art

Next door to Stir is a new, more casual cafeteria—although still very sleek. The boxy, wood space is big enough to sit 160 people, and serves salads, brick oven pizza, and artisanal sandwiches. It stretches the length of the floor, offering views of both the Schuylkill River and West Philly.

Photo: Jeffrey Totaro, courtesy, Philadelphia Museum of Art

The opening of the two spaces marks the first major opening in the museum’s $196 million “Core Project,” which will open a total of 90,000 square feet of new space to the public by its 2020 completion. While extensive, the Core Project is just one piece of a larger master plan for the 1928-built museum, which has been in the works for over a decade.

A rendering of the new North Entrance

In addition to the restaurant and cafe renovations, the Core Project includes restoring and reopening the North Entrance of the museum off Kelly Drive, which has been closed to the public for years. It will have a grand lobby and it leads to the vaulted walkway.

Rendering of the museum’s vaulted walkway
Rendering by Gehry Partners, courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art

The vaulted walkway, a historic, 640-foot-long walkway that’s been closed from the public for more than 50 years, will be restored and reopened (complete with an espresso bar), to “improve circulation at the center of the building,” according to a statement from the PMA.

A rendering of The Forum
Rendering by Gehry Partners, courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art

That walkway runs through what was once the Van Pelt auditorium. The auditorium has been removed, and the space will be converted into a multi-level gathering space called “The Forum,” connecting people from the vaulted walkway to the floors above, via a grand new staircase (prominently featuring Frank Gehry’s style).

It’ll be a few years before the rest of the renovations come in, but for now the restaurant is open, serving food Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and on the weekend from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Kelly Drive

Kelly Drive, , PA