The Calder Gardens, a Philadelphia space for art by Alexander Calder, has finally offered a look inside the project, which is set to open in 2024.
Designed by the architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron, the Calder Gardens will be located within walking distance of the Barnes Foundation, near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. It’s set to be part of the Parkway Gardens, and it will house sculptures by the modernist artist, some of which will be shown in outdoor settings.
But do not call it an institution, at least in the traditional sense. Alexander S. C. Rower, president of the Calder Foundation and the artist’s grandson, said in a phone interview, “We’re not making a museum, we’re making a place for introspection.”
Jacques Herzog, a partner of Herzog & de Meuron, said in an email that the Calder Gardens are “a spatial sequence rather than a classical gallery. A world that unfolds as you walk into the door.”
Those spaces contain views of the surrounding gardens and the Philadelphia cityscape, and are expected to provide visitors with new ways of seeing Calder’s sculptures that can’t be obtained in a white-cube setting. It’s been envisioned as a tribute to the unusual nature of Calder’s abstract sculptures and mobiles, which shift dramatically depending on where and how one sees them.
Spanning 18,000 square feet, the Calder Gardens will likely host particularly sizable pieces, both indoors, where ceilings rise to 16 feet high, and outdoors. The works on view, which will primarily be loans from museums and other collections, are expected to rotate over the years, and a checklist for the initial presentation has not yet been solidified, Rower said.
Talk of a Calder art space in Philadelphia dates all the way back to 2001, when a $5 million museum was first announced. In 2009, however, sculptures that were set to be on view there were removed. The museum was never realized.
In 2020, however, plans for a permanent Calder space were revived, and Herzog & de Meuron, which has previously designed art institutions such as the Parrish Art Museum, the de Young Museum, and the Pérez Art Museum Miami, was named as its architect. The project’s cost has been pegged at $70 million.
Below, a look at some of the newly unveiled designs for the Calder Gardens.