The Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building Fact Sheet
H. F. Gerry Lenfest, Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Raymond G. Perelman, Chairman of the Executive Committee and Chairman Emeritus
Anne d’Harnoncourt, The George D. Widener Director and CEO
Gail Harrity, Chief Operating Officer
Robert Morrone, Director of Facilities and Operations
George Ross, Manager of Capital Projects
Perelman Building Architect: Gluckman Mayner Architects
Construction Manager: L. F. Driscoll Co.
Gluckman Mayner Architects
As principal of Gluckman Mayner Architects, Richard Gluckman has been responsible for such distinctive museum projects as the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico (1996); renovation and expansion of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (1998); the Mori Arts Center in Tokyo, Japan (2003); The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh (1994); and the Museo Picasso in Malaga, Spain (2004). Richard Gluckman is a 2005 recipient of the National Design Award from the Cooper Hewitt National Museum (Smithsonian Institution). Recently, Gluckman Mayner was selected as design architects for the renovation and expansion of the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York.
Background on the Perelman Building
The Perelman Building is lavishly decorated with sculpture, color and gilding, and is regarded as one of the finest Art Deco structures in Philadelphia. The sculptor Lee Lawrie (1877-1963), whose work adorns such notable American public buildings as Rockefeller Center, the Library of Congress and the National Academy of Sciences, was principally responsible for its decorative scheme. In style, it reflects the moment of transition from early 20th-century historicism to the geometric Art Deco style of the 1920s and 1930s. The building was originally constructed to house the headquarters of the Fidelity Mutual Life Insurance company (which occupied it until 1972), and the polychrome sculpture of Egyptian-inspired flora and fauna symbolize attributes of insurance: the owl of wisdom, the dog of fidelity, the pelican of charity, the opossum of protection, and the squirrel of frugality. With a decorative scheme which also includes reliefs of Seven Ages of Man and the Perils of Land, Sea, and Air on the Earth's Four Great Continents, it remains the most elaborately sculpted facade of any 20th-century building in the city of Philadelphia.
Constructed of Indiana limestone highlighted with color and gilding, its north and south pavilions are joined by a soaring, arched main entrance facing the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a celebrated example of Philadelphia’s inspired urban planning of which the Perelman Building was designed to be an integral part. The building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 1980.
The Perelman Building is located at the intersection of Fairmount and Pennsylvania Avenues, just across from the Museum’s main building. It occupies a trapezoid-shaped, two 1/3 -acre site bordered by Pennsylvania Avenue, 25th Street, Fairmount Avenue, and 26th Street. The original building contains 125,000 square feet of interior space.
The Perelman Building was designed by Zantzinger, Borie and Medary who, together with architects Horace Trumbauer and Julian Abele, also designed the Museum's monumental neoclassical structure on Fairmount, completed in 1928. Leon Solon, the scholar who advised the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the color scheme of its celebrated glazed terracotta decoration and pediment, also served as color advisor for the Perelman Building.
Like the main Museum building, the Rodin Museum, and two historic houses in Fairmount Park--Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove--the Perelman Building is owned by the City of Philadelphia.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is the Museum expanding?
Since the opening in 1928 of the Museum’s neo-classical “temple on Fairmount,” the collections and public visitation have seen dramatic growth while the institution’s footprint remained the same. The world-class collections have long outgrown the available space in which to show them. The Perelman Building is part of a larger expansion of the Museum in the coming decade.
What part does it play in the Museum’s over all plan for the future?
The Perelman Building will be a major feature of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the 21st century, the first dramatic step forward for the Museum’s expansion, which will continue with added galleries in the main building, especially for American Art, Asian Art and Contemporary Art. The new space provided by the Perelman Building will also better enable the Museum to reconsider the use of the existing building. As the Museum responds to the full scope of its potential for collections and visitors, it will also build a landscaped parking garage on the west side off Kelly Drive and undertake improvements to the Main Building on Fairmount.
The Perelman Building will play a vital role in Philadelphia’s artistic life, a beautiful new place where some of the Museum’s largest, most comprehensive collections will be presented in lively, rotating installations, stimulating a broad public consisting of visitors from the region, across the country and abroad. Its offerings will also have special attraction for working artists, designers, scholars, critics and college students. Just as the building’s current renovation and expansion offers a cool, clean, contemporary elegance while preserving its exuberant original art deco features, the artistic program will be both classic and cutting edge.