Rick Mather + SMBW's Virginia Museum of Fine Arts are amoungst those five international buildings shortlisted for the prize which includes The Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi by Foster + Partners, Guangzhou Opera House, China by Zaha Hadid Architects, The Met in Bangkok by WOHA and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, USA by Foster + Partners.
Delivered with SMBW Architects, a Richmond-based firm, the VMFA expansion plan adds more than 9300m² to the existing 22300m² building. Completed in April 2010, the new museum complex includes a 4 acre sculpture garden, extensive new galleries, educational facilities, restaurant, cafe, library, administrative offices and a landscaped, terraced parking deck. It has re-established the VMFA as one of the country's leading encyclopedic museums, while placing its resource at the heart of the local community.
The Lubetkin judges said of the project -
"Rick Mather has returned to his homeland (he was born in Portland, Oregon), to add a new wing to Richmond's Museum of Fine Arts. This is Mather at his best: making sense of what is there but adding his own finely-honed stamp. The museum, which used to turn its back on the city with its blind facades, now addresses the grand boulevard on which it is sited in a very civic manner with a 40 foot high window of low-energy glass. The glazing deals with the lack of views out of the galleries but it also breaks up and humanizes the facades. The spirits of both the gallery visitor and the citizens going about their daily business are lifted by the new architecture. Materially the building takes its cue from the old in its use of limestone. The project provides not only three new floors of gallery space, it also adds a shop, library, lecture hall, conservation studios, offices and a cafe and restaurant overlooking a four acre sculpture garden.
With two previous, loosely connected buildings on the site, one dating from 1935, the other from 1985, plus a number of other ad-hoc additions, circulation was always difficult. Mather has made it seem natural with a series of sculptural stairs, walkways and lifts. As at his Ashmolean project in Oxford (shortlisted for the 2010 RIBA Stirling Prize) these utilitarian objects have been turned into exhibits. A catilevered stair clings caterpillar-like to a white wall. A bridge, so slender in its steel profile, appears to float above the atrium, a dramatic top-lit space. This mis-shapen cruciform space unifies the three buildings that now make up the museum and ensures that the galleries flow seamlessly into one another.
The landscaping stems from Mather's thinking though it was carried out by other hands. It links in a carefully managed landscape setting a number of historic buildings which provide a perfect foil for Mather's modernism.
A generous mix of public and private funding allowed for the realisation of the scheme. This is masterful museum making and a major contribution to the urban realm of Richmond, Virginia."
The winner of the RIBA Lubetkin Prize will be announced on the evening of Saturday 1 October at a ceremony and dinner at the Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham and will be featured in a special edition of BBC Two's The Culture Show.