The Barnes Foundation

By Dora Dmitriev

This month I took a quick weekend trip to Philadelphia. Having been to most of the museums in Philly before, I finally got a chance to visit the Barnes Foundation - that came highly recommended.

Reflecting pool at The Barnes Foundation entrance

The Art Museum relocated from Merion, Pennsylvania to Philadelphia in 2012 and boasts a large collection of French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early modern paintings. I enjoyed seeing many Seurat, Monet, Rousseau, early Picasso and Cezanne paintings (to name a few) but couldn’t help constantly admire the building’s architecture and details.

A glimpse of the art galleries

Matisse mural overhead

The Barnes Foundation was designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (TWBTA). The building’s exterior is lined with fossilized Israeli Limestone. This specific limestone was chosen to mimic the French Limestone that was used in the earlier Merion museum location. Sand-blasted cast-in-place concrete is used for the Pavilion and lower level to represent permanence.

Exterior View

The surrounding landscape of the building closes off the museum from the rest of the city with its many trees and reflective pools. From the lower level you can enter a garden in the center of the gallery that is visible from glass windows on other floors, providing a serene experience when walking from room to room.

Greenery surrounding the building

View onto the central garden

The materials used inside complete the serene environment throughout. The interiors incorporate transparent glass, oak wood battens, Belgian linen, a walnut staircase, sand-blasted architectural concrete and limestone.

Grand entrance/lobby

Walkway windows with garden view

The natural light enters the second-floor galleries beautifully with a clerestory that draws top-light into the rooms. Louvers further diffuse the light throughout.

Clerestory light

Window/Ceiling detail

All in all, whether you are interested in art, architecture or both, I would highly recommend visiting the Barnes Foundation if you ever find yourself in Philadelphia.