Rick Mather, the architect who transformed the Ashmolean, has died aged 75
The architect “understood the need to create intriguing vistas” through his sensitive expansion of museums
By Javier Pes. Web only
Published online: 24 April 2013
The list of UK museums that have been transformed by the architect Rick Mather is distinguished: the Dulwich Picture Gallery, National Maritime Museum and Wallace Collection in London and the Ashmolean in Oxford, the latter perhaps Mather’s masterpiece. Each gained much needed space in a way that new and old formed an elegant marriage. He also designed the Towner in Eastbourne, a gallery for Modern and contemporary art that rises like a gleaming white cliff alongside the coastal town’s grey 1960s Congress Theatre.
At the Ashmolean, the Mather-designed extension is significantly larger than the museum’s original 1845 building but the modern extension never feels overbearing. Christopher Brown, the museum’s director, praises Mather’s special sensitivity when dealing with historic buildings, adding: “He understood (better than me) the need to create intriguing vistas through the museum linking collections in a revealing and illuminating manner.”
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was Mather's first US project. There he placed a sculpture garden on top of a car park (the architect’s London garden was also rooftop) while almost doubling the size of the institution in Richmond. Mather’s second US commission is a work in progress: the expansion of the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, due to be completed in 2017.
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