Virginia Museum of Fine Arts / Rick Mather + SMBW

© Bilyana Dimitrova Photography

Architects: Rick Mather Architects, SMBW
Location: , Virginia,
Project Area: 9,300 sqm
Project Year: 2010
Photographs: Bilyana Dimitrova Photography, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Tippy Tippens, Rick Mather Architects 


After an international field of competitors, Rick Mather Architects were selected to masterplan and design a large addition and renovation to the 65 year old Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. This marks the office’s first major commission in the United States. SMBW Architects, a Richmond-based firm, were collaborators on the project.

© Bilyana Dimitrova Photography

The expansion adds more than 9300m² to the existing 22300m²  building. The additional program includes a large sculpture garden, extensive new galleries, educational facilities, restaurant, cafe, library, administrative offices, and a landscaped, terraced parking deck.

© Bilyana Dimitrova Photography

The goal of the addition was to open up the main building to the city and provide extensive new space to the museum’s art collections. The museum features two floors of permanent collection galleries in the new five level glass and limestone entrance wing. These include American art from the James W and Frances G McGlothlin collection and the J Harwood and Louise B Cochrane Fund, the museum’s twenty-first century collection, and one of the countries leading collections of art from India, Nepal, and Tibet. The space also accommodates international travelling shows in the dedicated temporary exhibition gallery level.

© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Glass Bridges across the central atrium space link the new wing to the existing building, acting as a main street that connects new and old. The renovation to the existing building includes a new education center, and the reconfiguration of existing galleries housing the Sydney and Frances Lewis Collections of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Modern and Contemporary American art, and the Museum’s Ancient Art Collection.

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Cite: "Virginia Museum of Fine Arts / Rick Mather + SMBW" 16 Aug 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • Don O’Keefe

    A triumph for the city and an intelligent design

  • Zgthlka

    Hard to imagine a less inspired design. Looks like an office building for some corporate software distributor.