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Renowned architect designed Scaife Gallery

By Jerry Vondas
Friday, September 24, 2004

Edward L. Barnes, who designed the Sarah M. Scaife Gallery at the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh, once said that most architectural ideas can be expressed on the back of an envelope.
“He was not terribly concerned about getting credit, just concerned about doing the job right, and he did do it right,” Carnegie Museum of Art board member James L. Winokur said in a magazine published by the Carnegie Museums.

Edward Larrabee Barnes, of Cambridge, Mass., died from complications of a stroke on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2004, in Cupertino, Calif. He was 89.

Arthur Ziegler, president of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, called the Scaife Gallery, which opened in 1974, “a fine example of a contemporary, later 20th century design in Oakland.”

Richard M. Scaife, the son of Sarah M. Scaife and owner of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, praised Mr. Barnes’ talents.

“I was delighted that it turned out as well as it did,” he said of the gallery.

Mrs. Scaife died in 1965, and her family and the Scaife Foundation presented the gallery to Carnegie Institute in her memory.

“I had a lot of adventures with Ed Barnes, and I came to have great respect for him,” said Winokur, who visited the construction site several times a week in the early 1970s. “The Scaife building fell right into place. It couldn’t have been done at a better time, and it couldn’t have been done better.”

Richard Armstrong, Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Carnegie Museum of Art, told the Carnegie magazine, “Of the many museums built in the 1970s, this is among the half-dozen best.”

“It receives people well, it functions very cleanly, and its greatest attribute is the incomparable light in the galleries. It’s not dated. It is truly very sophisticated architecture. It simplifies and elevates the Beaux-Arts ideals in the Alden and Harlow building next door.

“It expunges decoration and exalts the idea of the building as a container and a noble stage.

“Its strength, in fact, is evident in the graciousness with which it accommodates changing attitudes toward exhibiting works of art, a graciousness characteristic of the architect who created it.”

In the 50 years since the end of World War II and his discharge from the Navy, Mr. Barnes designed the IBM corporate building in Manhattan, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in Washington, D.C., among others.

His master plans also included work done at Williamsburg, Va., the New York and Chicago botanical gardens and the National University of Singapore.

Born in an Episcopal family in Chicago, Mr. Barnes was the son of Cecil Barnes, an attorney, and Margaret Helen Ayer Barnes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Years of Grace.”

He entered Harvard University in 1934 and studied English before focusing on art history and then the history of architecture.

After graduating, Mr. Barnes taught English at Milton Academy in Massachusetts, his alma mater. But his interest in the works of Walter Gropius, his mentor at Harvard, and Marcel Breuer convinced him that architecture was his true calling.

Mr. Barnes is survived by his wife, the former Mary Elizabeth Coss, an architect whom he married in 1944; a son, John Barnes, of Davenport, Calif.; and two granddaughters.

Jerry Vondas can be reached at or (412) 320-7823.

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