Gehry joined more than 100 dignitaries, philanthropists and art aficionados last month at the 82-year-old neoclassical landmark to mark the start of construction of a 68,000 square-foot $81 million loading dock and art handling facility. The relocation of the loading dock provides opportunities to re-open a majestic pedestrian entrance unknown and never seen since the 1970s by todays museum patrons. Work on the loading dock should be completed in 2012. Museum officials said the new space will provide much needed improvements for the care and storage of art works and will make deliveries simpler.
After completion of the loading dock, planning will begin on a vast underground gallery, also designed by Gehry. Tons of dirt and rock will be excavated under the steps of the museum, creating cavernous spaces to showcase oversized contemporary works and Asian art as well as rotating exhibitions. The project will add 80,000 square feet of gallery space to the museum. Gehry acknowledged that the loading dock is utilitarian by necessity, but said the public won't be disappointed when the final phase that includes the gallery is complete. The work marks the second phase of the museum's $500 million, 10-year master plan.
"When it's done, people coming to this museum will have an experience that's as big as Bilbao," Gehry told the Associated Press. "It wont be apparent from the outside, but it will knock their socks off inside."