Barnes Architects and “Skyspace” Artist to Receive National Medal of Arts

"Skyspace" artist James Turrell is also a recipient.

The new Barnes Foundation in Center City

Newsworks reports that President Obama will award the National Medal of Arts to Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, architects of the new Barnes Foundation (as well as Penn’s Skirkanich Hall and two dorms at Haverford College), and to James Turrell, the extraordinary light artist who recently created one of his signature “skyspaces” in Chestnut Hill, along with nine other recipients.

Tsien and Williams, a husband-wife team based in New York, are known for being much subtler than many “starchitects.” Their design for the Barnes was sharply criticized when it was first unveiled, but was eventually met with wide acclaim.

They became embroiled in controversy earlier this year when the Museum of Modern Art, advised by the well known firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, pressed ahead with its plan to demolish the American Folk Art Museum building, which they designed. (The Folk Art Museum itself moved out several years ago.)

Turrell, the light artist, has received much attention lately as a result of several major exhibitions, including one at the Guggenheim in New York in which he completely remade Frank Lloyd Wright’s classic rotunda. He’s been creating “skyspaces,” permanent installations which explore the use of openings to the sky, all around the world. Just last year he opened one of his latest in the new Chestnut Hill Friends Meetinghouse. We checked it out earlier this year, and it’s incredible. You can sign up to go to an opening here.

The full list of National Medal of Arts recipients is available here.