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Ring in the Old

New old buildings and renowned architects turned up in 2005.

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In a more encouraging nod to modernity, the metallic recladding of City Hall by SMBW Architects is refreshing and successful.

Sadly, two Richmonders dedicated to excellence in architecture and historic preservation died. Arbiter of taste Mary Tyler McClenahan, a longtime civic leader who worked tirelessly for affordable housing, the visual arts and the restoration of old buildings and neighborhoods, died Jan. 16. James Glavé, a partner in the architectural firm of Glavé & Holmes, who had a deft touch and tremendous talent for melding the old and new in his projects, died June 18. Losing these savvy and committed citizens reminds us that talented individuals are critical to our city. Their lives also taught us that working within the system can move mountains when combined with open arms, grace and humor.

A brighter note was the April opening of the Virginia Center for Architecture in the magnificently restored Branch House on Monument Avenue. The inaugural exhibition, focusing on works of Frank Gehry, was punctuated by an appearance of the world-renowned architect himself at the Richmond Forum.

Other architectural titans visited in 2005. Robert A.M. Stern, architecture dean at Yale (his federal courthouse rises on Broad Street), and Californian Thom Mayne (the most recent recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, architecture's equivalent to the Nobel) spoke to the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects.

2006 is promising, with an expanded Virginia Museum of Fine Arts taking shape, the Rocketts Landing development moving forward and — let's hope — resolution as to the fate and expansion of the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts. S

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