The last chance to see the Barnes Foundation’s artwork in its original setting has passed. It is now being prepared for the move to its new home in downtown Philadelphia. Architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien designed the new building for the Barnes Foundation with respect for its strong history and as a reflective addition of the foundation’s mission. The building is scheduled for completion in late 2011.
The Barnes Foundation was initiated by Albert Barnes in the early 20th century to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts” and horticulture. The foundation has been located in Merion, Pennsylvania for almost a century where Barnes built a gallery around his collection of French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings.
Barnes himself arranged the paintings for display in Merion, and retaining the original placements is a priority for the foundation as well as the architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. In order to accomplish this, the galleries in Philadelpia will replicate the scale, proportion and configuration of the Merion galleries, but will benefit from a glass canopy to allow in natural light for improved viewing conditions. Other spaces in the new building are entirely original to the Foundation’s expansion.
Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects combined the galleries with spaces to compliment the secondary teaching and horticultural missions of the Barnes Foundation. Classrooms and interior gardens neighbor gallery spaces on each level and there are vast public gardens surround the exterior. Additional program new to the Philadelphia expansion includes a café, auditorium, special exhibitions gallery, and facilities for painting conservation and restoration.
Along with the preservation of gallery designs from Marion, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien worked with Olin landscape architects to recall the Marion gardens in the new site. The design concept by the architects is a “ gallery in a garden” accomplished through the beautifully designed public gardens surrounding the building sited in the center.
The grey and gold limestone clad building sits on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and will quickly become a new feature along this stable cultural route. The rectangular glass protrusion covering the length of the building allows light into the galleries through the day, and at night will glow. It is another asset to the artwork and the Barnes Foundation, and a spotlight highlighting the move to its new city, Philadelphia.