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Philadelphia’s New Jewel: The Barnes, Part 1

By Steve Tawa

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien drew up plans for the new home of the $25-billion Barnes collection, they knew it had to copy the scale, proportion, and configuration of the original Merion galleries, built in the 1920s.

Barnes executive director Derek Gillman says the new Barnes mimics the intimate layout of 24 compact rooms.

“It’s to the millimeter, so it’s absolutely precise,” he says.

Tsien says the new site, like the old one, includes a visual interplay between art and nature.

“We’ve always talked about it as a gallery in a garden,” she said.

Williams says the 350-foot-long glass canopy running the length of the new building, called a “light box,” provides natural sculpted light:

“And it’s only something someone can experience by entering that space. It’s simultaneously ‘in’ and ‘out.’ ”

The exterior and interior walls include limestone panels, and Williams says they harvested reclaimed wood once used for the Coney Island boardwalks, to act as a giant “rug.”

barnesfloors  tawa dl Philadelphias New Jewel: The Barnes, Part 1

(A construction manager reviews the wooden flooring being installed in the new Barnes museum. Credit: Steve Tawa)

“There’s kind of a warmth and coolness, an industrial quality and a softness that’s organic,” Williams says of the wood floor.

Listen to KYW Newsradio 1060 all week long for more on the new Barnes Museum, opening May 19th on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia.  And listen on Friday, May 18th, as KYW Newsradio broadcasts “Reporters Roundup,” live from the Barnes, 12 noon to 1pm.

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