Philadelphia Contemporary

Moor Mother, Stellar Mass 1. Photo by Rashid Zakat

Jane Irish, Antipodes. Photo by Philadelphia Contemporary

Philadelphia Contemporary
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Museum/Cultural Institution

Philadelphia Contemporary brings visual art, performance art, and spoken word to the city through a dynamic model of collaboration and partnership. While most museums are primarily built around a nineteenth-century model of fixed architecture and twentieth-century definitions of programmatic categories, twenty-first-century audiences are increasingly seeking new models for engaging culture, prioritizing innovation and flexibility. Philadelphia Contemporary will bring to the city a collaborative, flexible, welcoming, diverse, and accessible institution. The art center will be an independent, freestanding, visual and performance space: non-collecting, multidisciplinary, and exploratory. The project is currently in design development. After an extensive search by DVDL Design Decisions Johnston Marklee were announced as Design Architects for this project in October 2018. They will be working in association with MGA Partners as Architect of Record. The selection process was centered around a fourteen-member jury composed of representatives from Philadelphia Contemporary, the City of Philadelphia, the local community, and the arts and design community. At the center of the search, which resulted in a longlist of twenty domestic firms, a five-firm shortlist, and three finalists, was an open question: What is the future of cultural institutions? Firms shortlisted and selected as finalists were compensated for their work. Besides Johnston Marklee, the finalists were KieranTimberlake from Philadelphia, PA and Ultramoderne from Providence, RI. “In 2017, we contracted David van der Leer to lead our design selection process for a new, dynamic, multi-disciplinary art center in Philadelphia. Not only did David create a world-class search process that was all about getting to know people and their design skills, he helped us develop an exceptionally creative program brief, and a series of trips that helped mobilize funding and strategy and gave us new insights into what we wanted from our building. David’s contributions are so valuable that we have retained DVDL Design Decisions to consult with us during the actual design process.”– Harry Philbrick, Founding Director, Philadelphia Contemporary


– Forecasting through qualitative and quantitative research
– Research workshops and events
– Leadership Reference Trips to explore reference projects nationally
– Program development (including mission and vision development)

Selection Processes

– Space program development
– Design brief development
– Advice on team structuring
– Selection process development (Invited competition)
– Jury and Advisory Committee development


– Vision and program refinement with designers and clients
– Design reviews and guidance
– Management of design processes
– Intermediary services with core consultants on design issues

Eiko Otake performing River Charette 1. Photo by Philadelphia Contemporary