Philadelphia Contemporary aims to create a stunning building that will be accessible and attractive to the surrounding communities, the city at large, and national and international cultural communities. It will operate as a civic catalyst providing multiple forms of engagement from social gatherings to experiments with young artists to world-class exhibitions.
Check this page for updates on the building process.
Why does Philadelphia Contemporary need a building?
Philadelphia Contemporary wants a home for a number of reasons. One of them is pure practicality—it’s easier to mount exhibitions in a dedicated space. While public art will always be central to our mission, a building makes continuous programming and community engagement possible. We envision the building facilitating a greater sense of connection and resonance around our projects. Philadelphia Contemporary is based on the idea that the museum should be reinterpreted as a resource for its community, other institutions, and the larger cultural ecology locally, nationally, and internationally.
We believe that a new space will contribute to a more resilient cultural infrastructure in Philadelphia, which is currently the only major American city that does not have an independent museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art in its many forms. Bringing a collaborative, welcoming institution to Philadelphia, we seek to expand opportunities for local practitioners and engage the city through a strong community presence, a robust education program, and a vigorous curatorial approach. Philadelphia Contemporary’s building will be an independent, freestanding, visual and performance art space: non-collecting, multidisciplinary, and exploratory.
What will your building be like?
Philadelphia Contemporary aims to create a stunning building that will be accessible and attractive to the surrounding communities, the city at large, and national and international cultural communities. It will operate as a civic catalyst providing multiple forms of engagement from social gatherings to experiments with young artists to world-class exhibitions. The building and site will have an appropriate and sustainable scale for the mission and institutional vision.
Conceived and built for a collaborative and interdisciplinary program, our building will accommodate a wide range of art forms, exhibition concepts, and community uses. Designed by
Johnston Marklee with MGA Partners as Architect of Record, our building will be sustainable, inviting, and responsive to the surrounding environment.
Why Johnston Marklee?
The result of an extensive search organized by DVDL Design Decisions, the selection of Johnston Marklee was made by a 14-member jury including local community leaders, city officials, and members of the arts, design, and poetry communities. Read more about our jury below.
Of twenty domestic firms presented to the jury, five were shortlisted based on their experience with public interest design, cultural and education projects, and flexible design projects. Presentations by each of the five firms incorporated an overview their general work, initial design directions for Philadelphia Contemporary, and answers to the question, “What is the look and feel of cultural institutions of the future?” The jury evaluated each presentation based on the designs’ potential for visitor experience, flexibility, and consideration of urban context.
Johnston Marklee has received more than 30 major awards for their residential, commercial, and institutional work. With notable cultural projects under their belt including the recently opened
Menil Collection in Houston, Johnston Marklee showed a commitment to challenging traditional museum paradigms and designing a building with the public in mind.
Where can I see images of the building’s design?
We are currently in the conceptual design phase of the building process. Renderings of the final design will be available in late 2019. + Architecture Jury
Philadelphia Contemporary’s Architecture Jury is a group of fourteen experts who represent the neighboring communities, the City of Philadelphia, the design community, the arts community, museum professionals, the institution, and its funders. The jury plays an active role in all parts of the selection and design process, and helped Philadelphia Contemporary decide on a final architect.
Michael Forman is chairman and CEO of FS Investments, an alternative asset management firm based in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Prior to co-founding FS Investments in 2007, he founded a private equity and real estate investment firm. He started his career as a corporate and securities lawyer.
Forman and his wife, Jennifer Rice, focus on collecting modern and contemporary art; they have an additional focus on collecting work by artists of color. FS Investments displays art from the Forman collection at the firm’s newly built headquarters.
Forman is a member of a number of civic and charitable boards, including The Franklin Institute, Vetri Community Partnership (chairman), Drexel University, the Barnes Foundation (Corporate Leadership Board member), the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (Corporate Council member), and the Center City District Foundation. His wife is also a member of a number of civic and charitable boards, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Jaime Frankfurt is a private art consultant based in New York. He has advised individuals, private collections, and institutions on both acquiring and deaccessioning artworks, and on philanthropic giving to institutions across the US and Europe. Frankfurt was instrumental in organizing the exhibition of a private collection he curated at the Dayton Art Institute in Ohio. He has advised a private art museum on the strategic deaccession of a significant portion of their holdings, and helped shape their collection to move forward as a valuable resource for the public. Frankfurt is currently a member of the Smithsonian Council for American Art, and has guided a program of major donations to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, transforming their contemporary holdings.
Richard Gluckman has occupied a special place in the world of art and design since establishing his architectural practice in New York City in 1977, creating distinctive spaces and buildings for artists, public arts institutions, art foundations, galleries, and art collectors. In recent years, he has applied his unique design sensibility, informed by decades of collaboration with artists and curators, to projects for universities, resorts, developers and private clients. His design approach is defined by an emphasis on architecture as an experiential opportunity, and as a frame for art and human activity.
Gluckman Tang Architects is an internationally recognized architecture firm based in New York City. The firm’s work ranges from careful interventions into historic structures and contexts to ground-up buildings; from large, complex buildings for cultural and educational institutions to bespoke garden pavilions. Recent projects include the expansion and redesign of Drexel University’s Korman Center, the renovation of the Coxe & Harrison wings of the Penn Museum, and four museums in China. Gluckman Tang has received numerous awards from the American Institute of Architects, Chicago Athenaeum, the New York Landmarks Conservancy, and the Landmarks Preservation Trust, along with several Record Awards from Architectural Record.
Mia Locks is currently an independent curator based in New York. Previously, she held curatorial positions at MoMA PS1, New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA). Most recently, she co-organized the 2017 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Other projects include Greater New York (2015); The Little Things Could Be Dearer (2014); Cruising the Archive: Queer Art and Culture in Los Angeles, 1945–1980 (2011); as well as solo exhibitions of the work of Math Bass, Samara Golden, and IM Heung-soon. Her writing has appeared in several publications and exhibition catalogues, and she is a faculty member in the Curatorial Practice Program at the School of Visual Arts. Locks is also a 2018 fellow at the Center for Curatorial Leadership.
Image © 2016 Scott Rudd.
Carolyn Oakley Lowe is the administrative partner at Lowe & Associates LLC | Counsellors and Advisors, a boutique corporate law firm that provides sophisticated legal services to its private, public, and government clients. She has a broad background in business, finance, law, real estate, and regulatory and public policy, and has served as in-house legal counsel to a real estate development company and legal counsel to a nonprofit housing development organization. Earlier in her career, Lowe was the associate general counsel of the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, and, subsequently, executive director of the District of Columbia Housing Finance Agency. She has also been a principal of a real estate asset management company. Before joining Lowe & Associates, she was the Executive Vice President and Managing Director of the Philadelphia office of DHR International, a global executive search firm.
Lowe received her JD at New York University School of Law and BA at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She currently serves on the School and Human Resources Committees of the Pennsylvania Academy for the Fine Arts and the Fairleigh Dickinson University FDUArts Advisory Board.
Don Millinger retired in December 2015 after a thirty-six-year career as a museum professional and lawyer. As special counsel to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation from 2001 to 2008, he worked with Guggenheim director Thomas Krens as a senior member of the Special Projects Group, responsible for the analysis, development, and implementation of additional international Guggenheim Museum venues, as well as global alliances and partnerships. He left the Guggenheim in 2008 when Krens founded GCAM Group/Global Cultural Asset Management, becoming vice president and general counsel of this international museum consulting business that provides services related to cultural development, with a primary focus on the development and management of art museums, museum programming, and collections.
Prior to his museum work, Millinger was a business and transactional lawyer, practicing in Philadelphia. He is a graduate of the University of Rochester and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Millinger has been involved in a number of local, regional, and national nonprofit organizations, both as a board member and in providing pro bono legal services. This has been primarily in arts and culture, LGBT issues, and social justice. He serves on the boards of directors of the ACLU-PA and the ACLU-Philadelphia.
Millinger is currently senior advisor to Philadelphia Contemporary.
Pepón Osorio merges conceptual art and community dynamics, and is best known for large-scale installations. His work emphasizes the exhibition space as an intermediary between the social architecture of communities and the mainstream art world. For over a decade, he has presented work in unconventional places prior to exhibiting in a museum setting, exploring the subjectivity of meaning in art and the multiple meanings that the installations achieve dependent on location. A professor at Temple University’s Tyler School of the Arts, Osorio’s work has appeared in El Museo del Barrio, New York (a retrospective); Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and Institute of Contemporary Arts, Philadelphia; Cleveland Institute of Art; Newark Museum; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; Bronx Museum of Art; Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; RISD Museum; and at museums and biennales in Venezuela, South Africa, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spain, and Brazil. Osorio’s distinctions include the 2017 Distinguished Arts Award at the Governor’s Awards for the Arts in Pennsylvania; the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture, 2001; the Whitney Biennial, 1993; an Alpert Award in the Arts, Visual Arts, 1999; and a John D. and Catherine T. McArthur Foundation Fellowship.
Harry Philbrick was director of the Museum at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) from 2011 to 2016. He revived PAFA’s engagement with contemporary art, creating a substantial endowment to rekindle the museum’s program of actively collecting contemporary art and leading an ambitious program of contemporary exhibitions. He re-introduced the museum’s Morris Gallery series of consecutive contemporary projects, and produced significant offsite projects in Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, with dancer Eiko and visual artist KAWS. Philbrick was director of The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum from 1996 to 2010, as it gained international acclaim for its curatorial program, including significant projects with artists such as Janine Antoni, Robert Gober, Ann Hamilton, Beryl Korot, Catherine Opie, Shahzia Sikander, and Fred Wilson. As a museum educator, Philbrick developed the nationally recognized Student Docent Program, which trains students as young as ten years old to act as docents for their peers. This program reflects his deeply held belief in the power of engaging diverse communities with contemporary art.
Vaughn Ross is deputy chief of staff to Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney. He previously worked as finance director on the mayoral campaigns of Jim Kenney and Ken Trujillo, as well as the re-election of Senator Bob Casey. A Lehigh University graduate, Ross also worked in Mayor Michael Nutter’s police office on grant writing and research.
Zoë Ryan is the John H. Bryan Chair and Curator of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago. A curator and author, her projects focus on exploring the impact of architecture and design on society. In September 2017, she opened Past Forward: Architecture and Design at the Art Institute, a major new installation of the modern and contemporary architecture and design collections at the museum. In October 2017, she also released As Seen: Exhibitions that Made Architecture and Design History, the first publication to explore in depth the important role that exhibitions have played in the history of these fields of practice.
Her past exhibitions include: Making Place: The Architecture of David Adjaye (2015), Fashioning the Object: Bless, Boudicca, and Sandra Backlund (2012), and Bertrand Goldberg: Architecture of Invention (2011). In 2014, she was the curator of the second Istanbul Design Biennial, The Future Is Not What It Used To Be. Ryan has taught graduate seminars on design history and theory at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a member of the Design Trust International Advisory Council, Hong Kong.
Nato Thompson is the Sueyun & Gene Locks Artistic Director of Philadelphia Contemporary. Previously, he was the artistic director of Creative Time in New York City where he organized major projects such as The Creative Time Summit (2009–2017), Pedro Reyes’ Doomocracy (2016), Kara Walker’s A Subtlety (2014), Living as Form (2011), Trevor Paglen’s The Last Pictures (2012), Paul Ramírez Jonas’s Key to the City (2010), Jeremy Deller’s It is What it is (2009, with New Museum curators Laura Hoptman and Amy Mackie), Democracy in America: The National Campaign (2008), and Paul Chan’s Waiting for Godot in New Orleans (2007). Prior to Creative Time, he was curator at MASS MoCA, where he completed numerous large-scale exhibitions, including The Interventionists: Art in the Social Sphere (2004). He has written two books of cultural criticism, Seeing Power: Art and Activism in the 21st Century (2015) and Culture as Weapon: The Art of Influence in Everyday Life (2017).
Nancy Rogo Trainer is university architect and associate vice president for facilities at Drexel University. Prior to joining the University in 2013, She was a principal at Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates and its successor firm, providing design and planning services to colleges, universities, and cultural institutions. Her work includes campus plans, museums, student centers, and libraries—design that helps build community by integrating social, strategic, and physical goals. Trainer was a 2012–2013 William Penn Foundation Affiliated Fellow at the American Academy in Rome, and was elevated to the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows in 2012. She is an adjunct professor in Drexel’s architecture program, a member of the Philadelphia Planning Commission, and the chair of the Philadelphia Civic Design Review Committee.
Yolanda Wisher is curator of spoken word for Philadelphia Contemporary and the 2016‒17 Poet Laureate of Philadelphia. She has been a force within Philadelphia’s literary scene for two decades, upholding poetry as a public art. The author of Monk Eats an Afro (Hanging Loose Press, 2014) and co-editor of the anthology Peace is a Haiku Song (Philadelphia Mural Arts, 2013, with mentor and first Philadelphia Poet Laureate Sonia Sanchez), she holds a BA in English and Black Studies from Lafayette College and an MA in Creative Writing/Poetry from Temple University. Wisher taught high school English, founded and directed a festival headlined by youth poets in Germantown, Philadelphia, and was Director of Art Education for Philadelphia Mural Arts. She has led and curated innovative and community-driven programs with local and national partners, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Rosenbach Museum and Library, Jefferson University, Historic Germantown, LiveConnections, and the US Department of Arts and Culture. In 2017, she collaborated with Philadelphia Contemporary to organize the Outbound Poetry Festival. Wisher performs a unique blend of poetry and song with her band The Afroeaters, and her writings have been featured in diverse media. A Pew Fellow, Cave Canem Fellow, and Hedgebrook Writer-in-Residence, she is the 2017‒2018 CPCW Fellow in Poetics and Poetic Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.
James Wright is the director of community, economic, and real estate development at the People’s Emergency Center CDC (PECCDC). He has fifteen years of experience in neighborhood planning, economic, and real estate development, and in galvanizing multiple stakeholders to leverage community assets, specifically business corridors. Wright holds an MBA in Urban Economic Development from Eastern University. He was recognized as a 2016 Rising Star by the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations. Prior to PECCDC, Wright handled real estate development at New Kensington Community Development Corporation. He serves on the boards of Mighty Writers, West Philly Tool Library, Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporations, and Historical Preservation Task Force.
Expert consultants assisted the Architecture Jury in its decision-making process during the jury meetings in a non-voting capacity.
Technical Advisor: John Cacciola is a partner at Aegis Property Group, a Philadelphia-based firm that provides project management services to owners with undertakings in the academic, corporate, cultural and religious, healthcare, hospitality, multifamily, and science and technology sectors. He has over twenty-five years of experience managing the implementation of hundreds of projects across a wide range of geographical locations for diverse clients in every sector, demonstrating great vision and commitment to the success of those projects. Cacciola is a licensed professional engineer in Pennsylvania, a LEED AP, and a member of SCUP, ASCE, and ULI, among others. He is the executive committee chair of the ACE Mentor Program of Eastern Pennsylvania, a member of Drexel University Construction Management Advisory Council Executive Committee and the Villanova University Civil Engineering Advisory Committee, and an adjunct professor teaching a senior-level engineering course at Villanova University.
Kirk Mettam joined Silman in 1998; he has been involved in the practice of structural engineering and architecture throughout his thirty-two-year professional career. His experience extends to a wide variety of structure types, including buildings for retail and mixed-use developments, headquarters, hotels, airports, bridges, sports facilities, as well as historic structures ranging from log cabins to heavy stone masonry construction. He has maintained an active participation in the industry though his involvement with national committees and technical publications, in the fields of structural condition assessment and the evaluation of the building envelope, and in academia, teaching courses in structural engineering and architectural technology.
Selection Process Advisor:
David van der Leer, Principal of DVDL Design Decisions, is a consultant, curator, educator, moderator, researcher, strategist, and writer. David’s passion is reinventing the institutions of yesterday—and dreaming up the most inspirational institutions of tomorrow—through excellent architecture and interdisciplinary programs.
David founded DVDL Design Decisions in 2018 after having worked and consulted with institutions, government agencies, corporations, and individuals for 15 years. Creative, intelligent, intuitive, and forward-looking, David has extensive experience in bringing together interdisciplinary teams to create successful design projects.
David has created, chaired, and led nearly 30 design competitions, and he has commissioned numerous design and art projects. He enjoys rethinking conventional design competition and commissioning processes, and actively promotes new practices in events like the Design Competition Conference he developed and co-chaired at Harvard University in 2015.
Born and raised in The Netherlands, David is a graduate of Erasmus University Rotterdam, and of the High Impact Leadership program at Columbia University’s Business School.
October 29, 2018
Philadelphia Contemporary is pleased to announce the selection of
Johnston Marklee as Design Architects, working in association with MGA Partners as Architect of Record, for its future permanent home. The decision is the culmination of an extensive search by a 14-member jury including community leaders, city officials, and members of the arts, design, and spoken word communities.
Johnston Marklee, based in Los Angeles and founded by partners Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee, has received more than 30 major awards for their residential, commercial, and institutional work.
“We envision Philadelphia Contemporary to be a model for the twenty-first-century museum wherein there are no boundaries between art and the public,” said Johnston Marklee partner Sharon Johnston, FAIA. “It will be an environment to stage events, from ephemeral spoken word performances to traditional, large-scale exhibitions; a social space for interaction; and a safe space for repose.”