Philadelphia, PA 2008-2012
For decades, the iconic art collection assembled by Dr. Albert Barnes was displayed at his summer estate turned museum and arboretum in Merion, PA. This priceless collection will soon have a new permanent home on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia’s cultural boulevard. OLIN’s design for the new Barnes museum captures the spirit of the original site while offering a public park that fits into the urban context and implements contemporary sustainable practices. Materials from the original site were used, showing sensitivity to the elegant French style that informs the building, in keeping with the other institutions along the Parkway. The gallery building opens to two separate outdoor spaces—one a lush garden and terrace adjacent to the museum’s café, replete with plantings characteristic of the historic gardens in Merion. The other is a paved open terrace overlooking the Parkway, suitable for more intimate events, decorated with antique benches, platforms for seating, loose furniture, a fireplace and a collection of flowering trees. Even within the gallery, there is a central courtyard that has been left open to the sky. Graceful allees of trees surround the site and line the entranceways along with linear pools. Vine-covered walls and hedges discretely mask the visitor parking and bus loading points. An underground cistern captures stormwater for on-site irrigation, conserving resources and contributing to the project’s LEED certification goals. These unique and beautiful features serve to make the Barnes both a garden within an institution and an institution within a garden.