Mixed Reactions, but Mostly More Anger, as Design Plans for the New Barnes Foundation are Unveiled

If you were to wander into Philadelphia’s city limits this week, it’s likely that you would have heard the renewed talk over the controversial 2002 decision to relocate the bulk of Albert Barnes‘ massive art collection, now housed at the famed Barnes Foundation in the suburbs, to a new facility in central Philadelphia. Since all of that was announced, a legal battle has taken place to try and get it stopped, the president of the Foundation resigned in protest, and constant reminders from those against the move that Barnes himself had stated in his will that “the collection be kept ‘in exactly the places they are.'” But things have sat still for a few years now, up until this week, when it all reved up again with the release of the proposed designs for the Barnes collection’s new home, as crafted by the New York-based architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. In reaction, starchitect and native-Philadelphian Robert Venturi still despises the whole concept of the move and decided to write a usually-very-strange type letter for someone working in his particular field: asking that the state not put the money into building the new museum and put it to better use elsewhere (PDF). Over at the NY Times, resident critic Nicolai Ouroussoff doesn’t think it much better, claiming the new building seems designed out of guilt. He says “the result is a convoluted design. Almost every detail seems to ache from the strain of trying to preserve the spirit of the original building in a very different context.” However, it isn’t all bad. The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s architecture critic, Inga Saffron, thinks Williams and Tsien have done an admirable job in creating something that’s approachable, pays homage to the original, and will finally bring the collection into a more functional setting. “The architecture is that good,” Saffon says. So a smattering of differing opinions. How will it play out when construction on the new building begins in the coming weeks and the collection finally makes the jump in 2012? Who knows. If you plan to sit down and just wait it out to see what goes on, here’s something to help pass the time between then and now. It’s a discussion with the architects on the new building (click “continued…” to watch video).