A generous reader sent me this photo yesterday after reading the latest Preservation 101 chapter on plaster- “this is what you CAN do with bricks and plaster”. Exciting!
BEST Stores were a catalog and retail chain operating between 1957-1997, founded by Richmond natives Sydney and Francis Lewis. BEST’s premise was based on large, spectacular showrooms where customers could interact with products before placing an order. Think Ikea, but without the warehouse section.
The Lewis men (father and son) were famous as art enthusiasts and it is a popular legend that they were always willing to trade merchandise for good art. They amassed a tremendous collection, much of which is currently held by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts- see some of the Lewis Collection of early 20th century art here.
The artistic inclinations of the Lewises can also be seen in the distinctive and architecturally pioneering architecture of the nine flagship showroom stores. Most were built in the 1970’s by the New York-based firm SITE to designs by firm founder James Wines. According to Wines, the acronym for SITE represents “Sculpture In The Environment”, which is an accurate description of the BEST Products stores. The one shown above was located in Chesterfield, Virginia south of corporate headquarters in Richmond and was known as the “Peeling Wall”- (cue hyperventilation) it’s a concrete block building clad in cement with brick veneer ‘peeling’ out into space. One brick thick! Brick veneer not even trying to look structural! How playful! How arresting! (arch historian fluttering ensues)
To see more cool, clever things that the Lewises and Wines collaborated on for BEST Products stores, see the project profile at SITE here. Shown below are the Houston “Indeterminate Facade” building and Hialeah “Rainforest Facade”