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Arts facility honored by Detroit-area architects

Jan. 21, 2009

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University's new Richmond Center for Visual Arts has been named the winner of the 2008 Honor Award for the Detroit chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The award was announced at the group's annual gala late last fall. Dr. Margaret Merrion, dean of the WMU College of Fine Arts, joined architects from the Detroit offices of SmithGroup to accept the award.

"The beauty and exceptional nature of the Richmond Center are apparent to those of us using the building, and it's affirming that the architectural profession recognizes its grace, function and quality," Merrion says.

Praising the craftsmanship and attention to detail apparent in the structure, judges in the annual competition called the Richmond Center "a strong structural and architectural form which accommodates a sense of movement and provides strong linkages to its surroundings."

"It is truly an honor and privilege to receive an award for the design of the Richmond Center," says Bob Varga of SmithGroup, principal designer the facility. "The project represented a true collaboration between WMU and SmithGroup that resulted in an outstanding design solution that embodied the spirit and mission of the art school. To have this project recognized by AIA Detroit with an Honor Award is a testament to its design excellence and prowess as a standout facility in the region and beyond. It not only honors the successes of clients, like WMU, and architects, like SmithGroup, that come together to make such buildings possible, but it also opens doors for future innovation in designing world-class higher education art facilities."

Completed in 2007, the copper-roofed Richmond Center is a sweeping 44,000-square-foot, $13 million building that houses WMU's Frostic School of Art and a variety of public exhibition spaces. The Richmond Center's opening in June 2007 signaled the completion of the West Campus arts village that consolidates the visual and performing arts on campus.

The center's $13 million cost was funded almost entirely with private funds, more than any building in WMU history. Major underwriting came from James and Lois Richmond, the Gwen Frostic estate and the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation. The Richmonds, longtime Kalamazoo residents and WMU alumni, made a $2.5 million gift toward construction of the new center.

Galleries in the facility include the Albertine Monroe-Brown Gallery that features major exhibits. The Eleanor R. and Robert A. DeVries Student Art Gallery showcases exhibits for art majors and, in some summer months, the work of distinguished alumni and regional artists. The Rose Netzorg and James I. Kerr Gallery displays works from the University Art Collection, faculty and visiting artists. A sculpture garden surrounding the first floor brings the works of nationally and internationally recognized artists to campus as part of WMU's ongoing sculpture tour.

The Richmond Center was constructed over a two-year period. SmithGroup did the architectural work and CSM Group of Galesburg, Mich., was the construction management firm.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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