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Design Unveiled for Art Museum of Western Virginia
Art Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke. View from Salem Avenue.

ROANOKE, VA.-The Art Museum of Western Virginia has unveiled the design for its future home in Roanoke, one of the most historic cities of the storied Blue Ridge Mountain region of the United States. The 75,000 square foot structure will be the first purpose-built art museum ever constructed in the city, and a significant step in the further development of the region as an arts destination of national and international stature.

Since the mid-1950s, the Art Museum has built a collection of exceptional objects exploring the unique culture of this area within the larger narrative of American art. Permanent collections focus upon 19th and early 20th century American art - including a significant 2001 bequest of paintings by and archival materials related to landmark artist Thomas Eakins and his family - and contemporary art, as well as design and decorative arts with a strong emphasis on the southern Appalachians.

Currently scheduled to break ground in fall 2005 and open to the public in fall 2007, the new Art Museum building has been designed by Los Angeles architect Randall Stout, principal of Randall Stout Architects, Inc. and a noted proponent of sustainable "green" architecture. A dramatic composition of flowing, layered forms in steel, patinated zinc and high performance glass, the building pays sculptural tribute to the famous mountains that frame the city and shape its spirit. The Art Museum will be the architect's first major freestanding museum. The facility will be situated on Salem Avenue, between Market Street and Williamson Road, bounded by railway tracks at one of the most visible intersections in downtown Roanoke.

Randall Stout's design quadruples the size of the current Art Museum facilities at Center in the Square. In addition to greatly expanded, flexible exhibition space, the design features a large multi-purpose auditorium, an enlarged Art Venture (the Art Museum's interactive gallery and art center for children), a library and study center, an art studio, a book and gift shop, a café, and terraces, as well as staff offices, art storage, and preparation areas. Evoking a grand mountain outcropping, a faceted glass form soars skyward at the center of the overall composition, providing a glowing central interior space for information, ticketing, temporary art installations, scheduled museum functions, and informal encounters.

The City of Roanoke donated the site for the new Art Museum building, along with an additional gift of $4 million. The total budget for the Art Museum's expansion and new building project is $46 million. More than $30 million has been successfully raised to date toward that financial goal, according to Art Museum trustee Jenny Taubman, chairman of the fundraising campaign.

"The new Art Museum building will sit upon a pivotal geographic and historical site in Roanoke's urban fabric," said W. Heywood Fralin, president of the board of trustees of the Art Museum. "We believe the building will provide both a physical gateway to our city and a metaphorical gateway to its future as an important arts destination for the entire region. Our purpose is to make a great American place - a place so rich in unique, relevant programs and collections, and so vivid in its relationship to the history and soul of the Blue Ridge, that it becomes a 'must see' destination for people everywhere."

Georganne C. Bingham, executive director of the Art Museum, said, "It is fitting that after decades of collecting and presenting important art to the public, we are now creating a building whose design is commensurate with our program. Randall Stout's vision perfectly complements our goal to serve as a catalyst for dialogue and creativity, a place for community interaction, a home for artists and craftspeople of the area, and, above all, a platform for lifelong learning."

Additionally, the Art Museum has retained Sonnet Takahisa, co-founder of the New York City Museum School and one of the nation's most admired experts in the field of arts education, to help develop a comprehensive, innovative educational program linking the Art Museum to K-12 schools and universities across the state.

Site and Architect - Randall Stout was selected for the Art Museum commission through a national competition held in 2001-2002. The architect was among four finalists on a shortlist that also included Antoine Predock Architect PC of Albuquerque, E. Verner Johnson and Associates of Boston, and Michael Graves & Associates of Princeton.

In announcing their decision to award the Art Museum commission to Randall Stout in 2002, trustees cited "the architect's unique combination of poetic sensibility, technical mastery of environmentally advanced design techniques, and an intimate, lifelong relationship with the landscape and culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains."

Born and raised in nearby Tennessee, 46-year-old Randall Stout founded the firm of Randall Stout Architects, Inc. in Los Angeles in 1996. Widely admired for structures that relate vividly to their natural settings, employ advanced solutions to sustainability, and draw program from inside to outside to establish an ideal economy of gesture and scale, Stout has designed museums, corporate headquarters, aquatic centers, power stations, firehouses, and other industrial structures in the United States and Europe. His firm has received numerous design and sustainability awards and honors, including many from the American Institute of Architects. In 2003, the architect's firm received the American Institute of Architects' "Top Ten Green" Award for its Steinhüde Sea Recreational Facility in Germany (2000), where its other projects include the Melittabad Minden Swimhall and Recreation facility (1998); North Minden Power Plant (1996); and Rehme Waterworks (2000).

Stout's 29,000-square foot extension to the Hunter Museum of American Art in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is scheduled to open in April 2005. Among his many civic and educational commissions are the Vasquez Rocks Park Interpretive Center in Agua Dulce, California (to be completed in 2007) and the Dockweiler Beach Youth Center in Los Angeles, California (to be completed in 2006). Prior to launching his eponymous firm, Stout was a senior associate architect with the firm of Frank O. Gehry & Associates (now Gehry Partners) in Los Angeles; previously he was a senior designer with Skidmore Owings & Merrill in Houston.

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