A first glimpse of Philadelphia’s future Alexander Calder sanctuary

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The Alexander Calder Foundation has unveiled the design for the Calder Gardens, a forthcoming institution devoted to the artist in downtown Philadelphia that is scheduled to open in 2024.

The non-profit centre, which the New York-based foundation announced in 2020, will be specifically crafted to display Calder’s work and feature a rotating selection of masterworks by the artist installed throughout its indoor and outdoor spaces.

Rendering of the forthcoming Calder Gardens. © Herzog & de Meuron
All artworks by Alexander Calder © 2022 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The 1.8-acre campus will feature an 18,000 sq. ft building designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning firm Herzog & de Meuron that is “sheathed in softly reflective metal cladding” with the intention to “blur the boundaries between architecture and the natural world”, according to a statement from the foundation.

Jacques Herzog adds: “Form, colour and movement are the most obvious of many outstanding aspects in Calder’s art. We wanted therefore to avoid rather than adopt the use of those as possible design elements when beginning to conceive an architecture for the presentation of his work.”

Visitors will enter the centre via Benjamin Franklin Parkway, crossing a meadow-like landscape conceived by the Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf and the landscape architect Richard Herbert that aims to elicit an “emotional reaction that stays with them long after their visit”, Oudolf says.

Rendering of the forthcoming Calder Gardens. © Herzog & de Meuron
All artworks by Alexander Calder © 2022 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The $70m project was first envisioned around two decades ago as a full-scale museum dedicated to Calder, who was born in Philadelphia in 1898. The project failed but was reignited in 2019 with funding from private donors, the city of Philadelphia, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and other supporters.

“Our intention for Calder Gardens is not only to create the ideal environment for the public to encounter my grandfather’s work but also to elevate personal contemplation and reflection,” Alexander S.C. Rower, the president of the Calder Foundation, says in a statement.

He adds, “Calder’s role as a pioneer of experiential art is essential to his legacy. For viewers who open themselves up to the possibilities of his mobiles and stabiles, the unexpected takes root. His objects continuously unfold in real time.”

Rendering of the forthcoming Calder Gardens. © Herzog & de Meuron
All artworks by Alexander Calder © 2022 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The forthcoming institution It will be operated by the nearby Barnes Foundation.

Calder’s works and the long artistic legacy of his family are visible throughout Philadelphia. Calder’s grandfather, Alexander Milne Calder, was a sculptor who many know for his 36ft-tall bronze statue of William Penn, which sits atop the Philadelphia city hall. And Calder’s father, Alexander Stirling Calder, was also a sculptor, known for his Swann Memorial Fountain, which resides in the centre of Logan Square.

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