Resculpting the Big-Box Store: James Wines' Unconventional Transition from Sculptor to Architect

Canup, William, Architectural History - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Wilson, Richard, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia

From 1971 to 1984, James Wines and his architecture firm, SITE, an acronym for Sculpture In The Environment, designed a series of nine surrealist-inspired showrooms for the Richmond, Virginia-based retailer Best Products (Figure 1.1). Wines, however, is not a registered architect and has never had any formal training in architecture. After completing his Bachelor of Arts in studio art at Syracuse University and winning a Rome Prize in visual arts, Wines pursued a career in sculpture for twelve years. Despite a great deal of financial success and critical acclaim, Wines left the world of traditional object sculpture and entered architectural design by founding SITE in 1969. Thanks to the intimate artist-patron relationship he developed as a sculptor with the founders of Best Products, Sydney and Frances Lewis, Wines was able to launch his architectural career. Wines’ non-traditional background in sculpture provided him a unique outsider perspective and inspired his design ethos known as “De-Architecture” allowing him to construct some of the most widely recognized, yet controversial buildings in the United States of the late twentieth century.

MARH (Master of Architectural History)
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