Monday, March 05, 2007

Help Wanted: Famous Merion Museum Seeks Architect for City Job

The Barnes Found-ation has been very, very guarded about the progress of its move to Phila-delphia. But it looks like the Merion museum has completed a shortlist of potential architects and project managers. In the last few days, those firms received letters asking if they would be interested in competing to design a new Barnes museum on the Ben Franklin Parkway. Sounds like an offer that can't be refused. Here's how the letter began:

"This letter is to invite you to submit documentation on your firm to be considered for the commission to design this new facility. The Trustees are confident that the new building will be an outstanding addition to the Barnes Foundation’s campus and the city. As mandated by the Court, part of the new building must replicate the scale, proportion and configuration of the existing galleries.

The process for the selection of an architect consists of two phases: the first involves the evaluation of documentation submitted by each of the invited firms; the second, a presentation/interview of a small number of finalist firms with the Building (Selection) Committee. Firms are not expected to undertake designs for the new facility. However, they will be invited to visit the Foundation and site to gather information, in order that they can further discuss their approach to the specifics of the commission during the interview phase."

My sources can't say which firms received the letter, but you can bet all the usual big names are on the list. Polshek Partnership in New York, which designed the National Jewish Museum on Independence Mall (the one with no door facing the mall) had been hired to do a programming study but later withdrew to compete for the design. Martha Thorne, the executive Director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, will serve as the Barnes' professional advisor. It doesn't get any more rarefied than that. Wonder if any Philadelphia firms received the letter? Submissions are due April 3, and an architect will be chosen by early August.

I guess the Barnes isn't too worried that the Montgomery County Commissioners voted last week to join the lawsuit aimed keeping the foundation in Merion.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Chris said...

I recently had lunch with the new director, Dereck Gillman. As a past Barnes Student, I was hesitant about their move to the parkway. I was a sucker for the current tucked away location. Kind of a buried treasure if you will. Mr. Gillman has great visions and ideas for their imminent move. Although the actual galleries will remain the same,court ordered, the outside will be vastly different. Since the current Barnes is located on an arboretum, the new Barnes will try to mimic this feeling of enlightenment and and beauty. A sort of campus feel. I'm confident they have the right man for the job. I just hope all the other variables may go his way. Philadelphia can benefit from this move in so many ways.
Please visit our site as we will follow this developing story in the upcoming months. PhillyGossip.com

8:21 PM  
Anonymous sbp said...

Why not simply dismantle the Barnes Museum Building -- carry it to Philadelphia and reconstruct it in an appropriate setting on the Parkway. If that is done everything can be kept as Dr. Barnes wanted it. The necessary modern conveniences, parking areas can be added underneath the reconstructed building or become an entrance way to understanding the Barnes Museum itself and why the museum had to be preserved in the way that it was. Other projects have preserved "art and history" -- look at the preservation efforts taken when the Aswan Dam was built in Egypt. Maybe such a reconstruction of the Barnes Museum could be a model for such problems as when art and display have become so intertwined that the two seem as one.

10:20 PM  
Anonymous sbp said...

Why not simply dismantle the Barnes Museum Building -- carry it to Philadelphia and reconstruct it in an appropriate setting on the parkway. If that is done everything can be kept as Dr. Barnes wanted it. The necessary modern conveniences, parking areas can be added underneath the reconstructed building or become an entrance way to understanding the Barnes Museum itself and why the museum had to be preserved in the way that it was. Other projects have preserved "art and history" -- look to the preservation efforts when the Aswan Dam was built in Egypt. Maybe such a reconstruction of the Barnes Museum could be a model for such problems as when art and display have become so intertwined that the two seem as one.

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why can't they just jack up the old building, put it on a truck, and move it to the Parkway. They used to move buildings all the time in the olden days. Why not now, keeping as close to Albert Barnes trust as possible, under the cy pres doctrine, plus preserving the unique esthetic experience of the original artistic ensemble?

9:46 AM  
Anonymous The ghost of Crete said...

Assuming the Barnes Foundation does clear all legal hurdles and builds a new home on the grounds of the Philadelphia Youth Center, (juvenile detention center). Where is that formidable homeless encampment on the YSC grounds going to end up? And will the Barnes Foundation allow the Neighborhood Crusaders to set up shop in front of their property?


Philadelphia my beloved schizophrenic friend. You have enough power to divert a multi-billion dollar art collection from another county, you have enough old money to build a $200 M endowment and facility for it. Yet don't have the intelligence to keep the same identical area from being a mass encampment for the homeless.

Hang in there old friend, perhaps one day you will be able to exorcise your demons and the Parkway will be all it was meant to be.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Move it here. Or replicate the building.

Makes everyone happy. Would also fit the neighborhoods and not cause Fairmount to "freak" about height,etc..


As for the homeless...blame the missions (mostly suburban) that keep feeding them there.

No feeding and no camps...maybe the homeless will actually use a shelter if not given handouts by the misguided do-gooders.

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Assuming this goes forward, I hope that care is taken by the chosen architectural firm to preserve as many of the mature sycamore trees around the site as possible. It has been depressing to see how many of these projects (Love Park, Aviator park, Waterworks, etc) end up removing mature shade trees to be replaced by saplings or nothing at all. Sometimes to improve the view for people passing in cars, sometimes to achieve a "new" look, and perhaps a way for some landscape architect to better leave their mark...just my speculation...

5:00 PM  
Anonymous fante said...

The residents of Montgomery County will forever bear the shame of forcing the Barnes Museum to vacate its building.

8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This whole story is endlessly amusing to me as an out of towner. Several years ago, while working temporarily in our New Jersey office, I just happened to read about the Barnes and drove into the city on a whim. Having read something about scarcity of admissions, I nonetheless managed to get in, and was truly blown away upon seeing the collection. It wasn't until years later that I realized my good luck at getting in on a last minute chance. I thought back to how I drove around and around in a gorgeous leafy neighborhood looking for the place. It was Fall, and I remember the leaves were turning.

Anyway, in more recent years, with the whole lawsuit thing and now the pending move, it continues to hold my attention.

Again, as an out of towner, I think the move to the Parkway is definitely good for the city. I do hope they design a worhty buidling, not only for the collection but for the city. And I will always be glad that I was there at the Merion location, taking in all that wonderful art in the setting that will one day be relegated to art history.

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the Montgomery commissioners should do something like clean up Norristown instead of holding a knife to Philly's throat. Don't they recall how many Lower Merion neighbors were against the Barnes expanding hours. Maybe the Montco Commissioners can get Carl Dranoff to put up a couple of Red Finger buildings in N'town. Or start a museum of bad architecture and bad manners not far from the court house on Swede Street

8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lets just hope the new pipes don't leak on the old paintings.

9:58 PM  
Blogger matissima said...

Time magazine's art and architecture critic Richard Lacayo visited the Barnes last Friday and expressed his outrage at the proposed move: "It simply will not be possible to "recreate" the Barnes in a much larger new building on Ben Franklin Parkway, any more than the Dulwich Picture Gallery outside London could be stuffed into the Great Turbine Hall of Tate Modern. In an era of big box museums, the Barnes is the ultimate jewel box. The financial problems of the Foundation are real, but the snatch-and-grab solution of relocating the collection to Philadelphia is no solution at all. It isn't salvation. It isn't even euthanasia. It's death by disembowelment."

Lacay joins a growing number of critics, including Ada Louise Huxtable, doyenne of architecture criticism, and CultureGrrl blogger Lee Rosenbaum in denouncing the planned move.

12:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do us all a favor and DON'T hire the convention center expansion guys.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let it be Moneo

4:49 PM  

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