The Barnes Foundation
The Barnes Foundation | Notes of Interest
Originally housed in a Paul Cret gallery in an arboretum in Merion, Pennsylvania, the Barnes Foundation collection has moved to a 93,000-squre-foot 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.
The tripartite building, consisting of the Collection Gallery, the L‐shaped support block known as the Pavilion, and a generous Light Court between the two, is set within a layered landscape, referencing the Merion arboretum. A series of public gardens filter out the sights and sounds of the city as visitors make their way toward the entry. A generous public park welcomes pedestrians from the parkway, while a 76‐car parking lot accommodates vehicles to the north.
The Light Court is the living room of the Barnes Foundation, resting between the Collection Gallery to the left and the Pavilion block to the right. During the day, it is used for gathering, repose, and conversation. In the evening, the space can be reconfigured to accommodate a variety of events. The space is capped by a light box, a voluminous sculptural element that brings diffused natural light into the building. At night, the ethereal Light Box is transformed into an iconic beacon for the new Barnes Foundation.
The legendary Barnes art collection is presented in a 12,000-square-foot 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 .
- Associate Architect: Ballinger
- Acoustic and Audio Visual: Acoustic Dimensions
- Code Consultant: Hughes Associates
- Concrete Consultant: Reginald Hough
- Conservation Consultant Architect: Samuel Anderson Architects
- Construction Manager: L.F. Driscoll
- Elevator Consultant: Van Dusen Associates
- Engineer - Civil: Hunt Engineering
- Engineer - MEP: Altieri Sebor and Wieber
- Engineer - Structural: Severud Associates
- Exterior Wall Consultant: Axis Group Limited
- Food Service: Post & Grossbard
- Fountain Consultant: Dan Euser Waterarchitecture Inc.
- Geotechnical: Earth Engineering Inc.
- Graphics and Way-finding: Pentagram
- Irrigation System: Irrigation Consulting Inc.
- Landscape Architect: OLIN
- Lighting Consultant: Fisher Marantz Stone
- Property Manager: Aegis Property Group
- Retail Designer: Charles Sparks and Company
- Security Consultant: Ducibella Venter & Santore
- Theater Consultant: Schuler Shook
- © Michael Moran/OTTO
The Barnes Foundation
- Architect: Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects
- Owner: The Barnes Foundation
- Location: Philadelphia
The Barnes Foundation serves as an example for the museum building typology in its careful consideration of the foundation’s mission, user experience, and sustainable operating practices.
It commands attention by inviting pedestrians to the site and incorporating the historic landscapes of Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Given the collection’s requirement for display in its original context, the architect cleverly placed the “old building” within its overall solution.
The building form successfully resolves challenges of context, security, and materiality as it melds tradition with modernity.
2013 Institute Honor Awards for Architecture Jury
- Mary Katherine Lanzillotta, FAIA (Chair)
- Hartman-Cox Architects, Washington, DC
- Brian Fitzsimmons, AIA
- Fitzsimmons Architects, Oklahoma City
- John Kane, FAIA
- Architekton, Tempe, Arizona
- William Leddy, FAIA
- Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, San Francisco
- Philip Loheed, AIA
- BTA Architects, Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Robert Maschke, AIA
- robert maschke ARCHITECTS inc., Cleveland
- Douglas L. Milburn, Assoc. AIA
- Isaksen Glerum Wachter LLC, Urbana, Illinois
- Becky Joyce Yannes, AIAS Representative
- Drexel University, Philadelphia