Gehry’s Philadelphia Museum of Art Plans Threaten ‘Rocky’ Steps

Rendering of Frank Gehry's design for the Philadelphia Museum of Art showing the East Terrace, aka Rocky Steps. Photo: OLIN.
Rendering of Frank Gehry's design for the Philadelphia Museum of Art showing the East Terrace, aka Rocky Steps. Photo: OLIN.

Plans aren’t finalized for Frank Gehry‘s redesign of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but one option could potentially anger fans of Rocky, the classic 1976 Sylvester Stallone boxing film, by removing a portion of the museum’s famous steps, immortalized in the conclusion of one of Rocky Balboa’s inspirational training montages, reports the Guardian.

Gehry’s polarizing signature curving, metallic aesthetic, as seen at the Bilbao Guggenheim and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, won’t be in evidence in Philadelphia. “I don’t think you need architectural flourishes,” the architect told Philly.com. “I like that you’ll pass by and not know Frank Gehry was there.” Nevertheless, the potential loss of the Rocky stairs means that the project is still attracting criticism.

“The Museum of Art was put on the map for millions in this world because of Rocky,” Rocky impersonator Mike Kunda, who operates Rocky-themed tours that end at the stairs and penned a memoir titled Cue the Rocky Music, told the Chicago Tribune. “The steps are a symbol of hope and inspiration. Even though it’s corny, it is what it is.”

Those steps have since become a major tourist attraction on a par with the museum itself, with visitors sprinting to the top themselves to recreate the movie’s triumphant moment, fist hoisted in the air—earlier in the film, out of shape, Rocky is unable to complete the climb. This might actually be part of the reason the museum is considering cutting a window into the stairs, to reveal the galleries blow.

“We need to improve the relationship of the museum with the city,” museum board member Mark Rubenstein told the Tribune. “It’s a city museum, yet for some reason it’s blocked off from the city. The city can’t see in, and people who view art can’t see out.” He believes that the museum remains formidably inaccessible, saying it “scares the hell out of people in the city. And we have to get over that.”

Watch Rocky Balboa’s inspirational jog through Philadelphia, culminating in his heroic climb up the Philadelphia Museum of Art steps:


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