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VMFA selects SmithGroup for $190m expansion and renovation

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) has announced that SmithGroup will design the museum’s new wing, set to open in 2025.

virginia museum of fine arts

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has chosen SmithGroup to design its $190 million expansion and renovation project following an international search.

SmithGroup will design VMFA‘s new wing, which will boast state-of-the-art gallery spaces for African art, photography and 21st-century art. It will also house another major exhibition space, as well as a special events space with F&B.

In addition, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ new wing will have a welcoming entrance to and from the E. Claiborne and Lora Robins Sculpture Garden.

The existing building will be renovated, with improved gallery spaces, increased facilities, new education classrooms, and upgrades to the Leslie Cheek Theater.

SmithGroup to design VMFA‘s new wing

“[SmithGroup] has demonstrated expertise in planning and designing dynamic, engaging museum environments,” said Alex Nyerges, VMFA’s director and CEO.

SmithGroup’s portfolio includes the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

“We believe this is a pivotal time for museums and recognize that the process and the physical design of a cultural entity speaks volumes about its values,” added Jamē Anderson, SmithGroup’s cultural practice director and principal in charge.

This is the fifth expansion project at VMFA since it opened in 1936. The museum currently covers 650,000 square feet, and the latest expansion will provide an additional 100,000 square feet of space.

Additionally, a separate Collections Centre with 40,000 square feet will be located on VMFA’s campus. It will be home to the museum’s conservation department and art storage.

Existing VMFA building will be renovated

“SmithGroup presented us with an inspired proposal that dovetailed beautifully with our desire to reimagine and transform the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,” said Michael R Taylor, VMFA’s chief curator and the expansion’s project director.

“SmithGroup’s passion for our institution, including our collection, staff and mission, was obvious during the selection and interview process,” Taylor added.

“Their blend of technical expertise balanced with their exceptional conceptual ability makes them the ideal design partner and we look forward to our collaboration with them on this landmark building project.”

VMFA will begin the project with a design phase, expected to take around 24 months. Building work is set to begin in summer 2023, with the new wing scheduled for completion in summer 2025.

Images: VMFA

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Bea Mitchell

Bea is a journalist specialising in entertainment, attractions and tech with 10 years' experience. She has written and edited for publications including CNET, BuzzFeed, Digital Spy, Evening Standard and BBC. Bea graduated from King's College London and has an MA in journalism.

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