Spring architecture preview: Barnes Foundation’s new home, CicLAvia

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When it comes to architecture, the season ahead is a mixture of anticipation, uncertainty and controversy. Philadelphia is home to the controversy, in the form of a new home for the Barnes Foundation, while in Los Angeles we look forward to a new light-rail line (the precise opening date is where the uncertainty comes in), an expanding CicLAvia and a third building at the Pacific Design Center.


Here is what’s ahead in the spring:

A new home for the Barnes Foundation

No architectural commission has been more controversial in recent years than the job of building a new facility for the Barnes Foundation in central Philadelphia. In taking it on, the New York architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, best known for their now-shuttered Museum of American Folk Art down the block from the Museum of Modern Art in midtown Manhattan, grabbed a chance to produce the biggest and highest-profile building of their careers. But the new 93,000-square-foot facility on Benjamin Franklin Parkway will face legions of doubters who wonder if the remarkable group of paintings assembled by Albert C. Barnes in the first half of the 20th century should ever have been removed from its quirky, poetic home in suburban Merion.

May 19,

CicLAvia It’s not just for bikes anymore, if it ever was. For its April edition the CicLAvia festival, which closes down a series of L.A. streets to car traffic and opens them to cyclists and pedestrians, will be extending its route to 10 miles and adding a number of new features. These are likely to include pop-up facilities and other quasi-architectural stops along the way that will transform CicLAvia into an urban-design event as well one about bicycling and mobility.

April 15

Exposition Line

No date has been finalized, but it’s likely that sometime this spring the MTA’s newest light-rail line will begin rolling, carrying passengers from downtown west to La Cienega Boulevard near the edge of Culver City. It’s not quite a subway to the sea, but the line, stretching eight miles, will bring Los Angeles closer than ever to finally pushing a train network west of the 405. A second phase of the line, soon to begin construction, should do that by 2015, taking passengers all the way to a station at 4th Street and Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica.

Spring date TBA,

Red Building at the Pacific Design Center

Architect Cesar Pelli adds his third structure to the iconic PDC campus, joining the Blue (1975) and Green (1988) buildings. The newest one, set to open in April, is unlikely to match the original PDC, an icon known as the ‘Blue Whale,’ for architectural stature: that building, an early experiment in the architectural potential of a mirrored-glass facade, remains one of the most recognizable in Southern California, a perfect match for the car and billboard culture of the time. But by squeezing a third facility onto the PDC site Pelli will be exercising other architectural muscles, adjusting to the growing density of this corner of West Hollywood.



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-- Christopher Hawthorne