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Woodmere Art Museum in Philadelphia announces creation of architectural plan

Philadelphia’s Woodmere Art Museum Hires Architect to Develop Master Plan for Museum’s Buildings and Grounds

Chestnut Hill native Matthew Baird will work with Museum and local community to develop an architectural plan for Woodmere’s six-acre estate

PHILADELPHIA — With support from its Board of Directors, Woodmere Art Museum has approved an architectural planning process and announced the architect who will work with the community to develop a master plan for the future of the Museum’s six-acre estate: well-respected New York-based architect and Chestnut Hill native Matthew Baird. Baird currently leads Matthew Baird Architects and previously collaborated as an associate architect at the studio of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects (Barnes Foundation, 2012), where he served as the project architect for the American Folk Art Museum (2001).

The plan to improve Woodmere’s architectural legacy and estate grounds continues a vibrant new era for the Chestnut Hill institution. “With our growing attendance and collections,” says John Affleck, president of Woodmere’s Board of Trustees, “it is the right time to start planning how our buildings and grounds should be transformed to accommodate our growth.”

In accordance with the Museum’s 2012-17 Long Range Plan, Baird will approach Woodmere’s needs from a perspective of adaptive reuse, focusing on a restoration of the 19th-century estate that will also engage elements of new construction to create a compelling 21st-century campus. As a part of this endeavor, Woodmere plans to repurpose its adjacent property, the Director’s House, at 51 Bells Mill Road.

Woodmere invites the community at large to participate in the development of this plan. On Thursday, November 21, at 6 p.m., the Museum will host an open house for the community to meet Baird and ask questions about the master plan, which will include the following components:
Updating the Museum’s entrance, facilities and museum store;
Expanding storage spaces and galleries to accommodate Woodmere’s growing collection of art;
Designing galleries to accommodate specific treasures from the collection, such Violet Oakley’s monumental murals, stained glass by Nicola d’Ascenzo, and large-scale work by Elaine Kurtz;
Re-engineering and enhancing the museum’s landscape, adding accessibility, pervious parking, paths, benches and lighting while adhering to the Wissahickon Watershed principles of environmental preservation;
Restoring historic elements of the landscape, including converting a former stable, known locally as “the ruins,” into an education space; and
Creating a world-class, experiential outdoor sculpture garden.

“Woodmere is a beautiful museum located in the green, natural environment of Chestnut Hill,” says William R. Valerio, the Patricia Van Burgh Allison Director and CEO of Woodmere Art Museum. “We’re looking for a plan that makes Woodmere a Philadelphia destination and allows for the fullest pursuit of our mission to tell the stories of Philadelphia’s art and artists.”

Carefully selected from a large pool of applicants, Baird, whose firm Matthew Baird Architects is based in New York, was selected for his deep understanding of and respect for Chestnut Hill’s architectural history; his previous experience working with museums; and his enthusiasm to work hand-in-hand with members of the community.

“We are thrilled to be selected as the architects for Woodmere’s master plan,” Baird says. “At this moment in the city’s profound expansion of art institutions and museums, it is exciting to re-cast the house museum of Charles Knox Smith as a vibrant new center for Philadelphia art. As we pursue this historic endeavor, we will make sure to preserve the compelling intimacy of engaging with art at a domestic scale.”


Matthew Baird moved to Laverock as a boy in 1976, where his family lived until 1993. He received his undergraduate degree in Architecture from Princeton University in 1987 and his Master of Architecture degree from Columbia University in 1992. Prior to receiving his professional degree, he worked as an intern in the offices of Mitchell Giurgola, Michael Graves, Jacobs Wyper, Richard Meier, Barton Myers, and Antoine Predock. Upon completion of his graduate studies Mr. Baird joined the studio of Tod Williams Billie Tsien & Associates, where for 10 years he collaborated as an Associate Architect on a range of museum, academic and residential projects. His tenure at TWBTA culminated with serving as Project Architect for the new American Folk Art Museum, which opened to critical acclaim December 11, 2001. After completing the museum, he left Tod Williams Billie Tsien & Associates and founded Matthew Baird Architects.

While at Columbia University, Baird was honored with the Columbia University Graduate Prize for Design and the William Kinne Fellowship, for an independent research project focused on the works of Alvar Aalto and funded by the American Scandinavian Foundation and the Finlandia Foundation. He has served on numerous design juries at architecture schools throughout the New York area, and has taught as a visiting adjunct professor of architecture in design studios at Yale University, Rhode Island School of Design and Parsons The New School for Design. The work of Matthew Baird has been published internationally and been the subject of numerous AIA awards and exhibitions including installations at the GA Gallery Tokyo, the Museum of Modern Art and the Venice Biennale.

Housed in a 19th-century stone Victorian mansion on six acres in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, Woodmere first opened its doors to the public in 1940. The building, grounds and the nucleus of the Permanent Collection are the benefactions of Charles Knox Smith (1845 – 1916), who wished “to awaken the spirit of, the appreciation of, and the knowledge of art … in the City of Philadelphia and surrounding territory.” Today, the Permanent Collection consists of more than 3,000 works of art, celebrating the art and artists of Philadelphia.

Woodmere’s core collection includes important paintings by renowned artists such as Edward Redfield, Daniel Garber, Walter E. Schofield, Benjamin West, Frederic Edwin Church, Violet Oakley, Arthur B. Carles and many more. Woodmere’s nine galleries and salons, including a grand rotunda and a uniquely designated Helen Millard Children’s Gallery, provide space for exhibitions and programs that serve the entire family. In the George D. Widener Studio, a converted carriage house, a year-round roster of classes provides outstanding art training to children and adults. General operating support is provided, in part, by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.