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Preservation versus Progress in Richmond?
If only it were that simple.
By George Hazelrigg

In May 2003, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) provided a public overview of a $100 million expansion plan by Rick Mather, a talented American architect based in London. Mather, who was at the presentation, and VMFA director Michael Brand said the plan showed how the design “will transform the VMFA for the twenty-first century and add a major work of contemporary architecture to Virginia’s rich architectural heritage.”

Preservation versus Progress in Richmond?
The cascading water of Halprin's fountain has been turned off, a prelude to its bleak future.
George Hazelrigg

The presentation was lively, the plans for transformation exciting. During the ensuing question-and-answer session, however, three anonymous attendees separately asked essentially the same question: “But what about the Halprin sculpture garden?”

Good question, since the plan also signals the impending removal of the sunken sculpture garden designed by Lawrence Halprin, FASLA. That proposed removal has provoked in turn a controversy first described by Landscape Architecture in 2001 (see Riprap, July 2001) and featured by the Washington, D.C.-based Cultural Landscape Foundation (CLF) in its 2002 list of endangered modern design landscapes.

The death warrant for Halprin’s project has been signed, but the execution has not yet been carried out. While we are waiting to condemn or cheer the act, the controversy warrants a closer look.

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