The Barnes Foundation

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Date of Completion: 2012
Program: Art Education Facility
Size: 93,000 SF
Sustainability: LEED Platinum
Awards: 2013 AIA Institute Honor Award for Architecture, 2013 Building Stone Institute Tucker Award, 2012 Apollo Award for Museum Opening of the Year
Photographer: Michael Moran

Originally housed in a Paul Cret gallery in an arboretum in Merion, Pennsylvania, the Barnes Foundation collection is re-located to a 93,000 SF, LEED Platinum building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in downtown Philadelphia. Conceived as “a gallery in a garden and a garden in a gallery,” the new building honors the Merion facility and provides visitors with a personal and contemplative experience. Clad in a tapestry of fossilized limestone and crowned by a luminous light box, the two-story building, with an additional level below grade, is set in an inviting public garden designed with landscape architect Laurie Olin.

The tripartite building plan consists of the Gallery housing the collection, the L-shaped support building, and a generous Court between the two. The L-shaped building provides facilities for the Foundation’s core programs in art education, as well as for conservation, temporary exhibitions, and visitor amenities. The legendary Barnes art collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, African sculpture, Pennsylvania Dutch decorative arts, and other important works is presented in a 12,000 SF gallery that replicates the scale, proportion and configuration of the original Merion spaces. To emphasize the founder’s commitment to education and the visual interplay between art and nature, the galleries now include a classroom on each floor, an internal garden, and vastly improved lighting conditions.

A monumental light box, running the length of the building and cantilevering over a terrace, casts daylight into the serene Court space below. The Court and terrace serve as a place for visitors to gather for tours, a place for repose, or an event space in the evenings. At night, the ethereal light box is transformed into an iconic beacon for the new Barnes Foundation.

In 2012, we published The Architecture of the Barnes Foundation: Gallery in a Garden, Garden in A Gallery with Skira Rizzoli. This book provides a comprehensive description and behind-the-scenes look into the architectural evolution of the Barnes Foundation’s new building.

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