After a comprehensive modernization, the Benjamin Franklin Museum now welcomes visitors with a new entry pavilion, expanded orientation areas, and dynamic, multimedia exhibits.The museum, largely built underground at the site of Franklin’s home and print shop in downtown Philadelphia, has also been updated to reflect the latest advances in energy-efficient systems and sustainable design. The renewal transforms the visitor experience from a highly sequenced design originally needed to accommodate large groups of Bicentennial visitors to a more free-flowing, interactive experience that engages visitors of all ages.
“Quinn Evans restyled the facade in a modern vernacular. Round steel columns replace Venturi's turned-wood posts. Glass bricks stand in for the red-clay kind.”
Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer
A More Welcoming Entrance
The National Park Service sought to create a more distinctive point of entry with expanded orientation space for visitors arriving at the museum. Quinn Evans Architects enclosed the original canopy along the west side of Franklin Court with a custom glass curtainwall that echoes the Flemish bond pattern along the brick exterior. A terra-cotta-colored ceramic frit pattern applied to the glass recalls the surface texture of hand-molded brick. A large window opens from the court onto the interior grand stair, providing views into the museum below.
“Preserving the character of the Franklin Museum, including the ghost house, informed and inspired our design approach.”
Carl Elefante, FAIA, LEED AP
Shadow Box Design
The façade’s glazing, which includes a ceramic frit pattern, creates a shadow box effect within the interior. In direct sun, the interior is animated with shadows cast by Franklin Court’s famed ghost structures designed by Robert Venturi. In the afternoon, when the façade is in shadow, the glazing creates a translucent scrim effect.
A Fitting Tribute
The reconfigured interior and new exhibits allow for a visitor-directed experience, featuring representations of “rooms” from Franklin’s house. Each room explores themes representing the patriot’s character, interests, intellect, and accomplishments, with historic objects, documents, and interactive displays based on the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary exhibit, “In Search of a Better World,” curated by Remer & Talbott.
“The museum is new in almost every way, save for its site. There is finally an institution with enough technology and innovation to honor the man for whom it was built.”
“Welcome Additions," The Philadelphia Inquirer