Institute for Contemporary Art

Institute for Contemporary Art by Steven Holl Architects




Institute for Contemporary Art
Photo © Iwan Baan

The Institute for Contemporary Art will open with the inaugural exhibition, Declaration, an exploration of contemporary art’s power to respond to pressing social issues through the voices of 33 emerging and established artists from Richmond and around the globe. The new building provides a striking new gateway for Richmond, with dual entrances opening to the city’s arts district on one side and VCU’s Monroe Park campus on the other.

Institute for Contemporary Art
Photo © Iwan Baan

With nearly 41,000 square feet of flexible space, including an inviting 33-foot-high central forum, the ICA will feature a dynamic slate of changing exhibitions, performances, films and interdisciplinary programs. Its fluid spaces are designed to support the diverse practices characteristic of the art of today, mirroring VCU’s interdisciplinary approach and supporting the varied needs of contemporary art and audiences.

Institute for Contemporary Art
Photo © Iwan Baan

The open design of the ICA features dynamic exhibition and programming spaces that can be creatively activated to support widely varied forms of contemporary art. The glass walls and windows create continuity between the interior and exterior spaces of the building. On the first floor, a 4,000-square-foot gallery and café, bar, and concept shop radiate from the ICA’s central forum and frame an outdoor garden.

Institute for Contemporary Art
Photo © Iwan Baan

Steven Holl describes the garden as the “Thinking Field,” that will be used for social gatherings and public programs. The first floor also features a state-of-the-art 240-seat auditorium for film screenings, performances, lectures, and other programs.
The second floor includes two forking galleries and an adaptable “learning lab” for interactive engagement. It also includes a publicly accessible terrace, featuring one of four green roofs.

Institute for Contemporary Art
Photo © Iwan Baan

The third floor features a gallery with soaring, 33-foot-high walls and houses one of the administrative suites and the boardroom. In keeping with VCU’s master sustainability plan, the ICA’s design incorporates state-of-the-art technologies and environmentally conscious design elements, and makes use of numerous natural resources.

Institute for Contemporary Art
One Hundred Days Of Solitude – Image courtesy of Postmasters Gallery

The pre-weathered, satin-finish zinc exterior of the Markel Center, which houses the ICA, includes interspersed clear- and translucent-glass walls and skylights that infuse the building with natural light and lessen the reliance on nonrenewable energy. These include the use of geothermal wells to provide heating and cooling energy for the building, and four green roofs to absorb storm water, offset carbon emissions, and maximize insulation.

Institute for Contemporary Art
Still from Aria End ,
a work in progress by Peter Burr and Porpentine Charity Heartscape –
Image courtesy of the artists

Native plantings include wood oats, little bluestem, Pennsylvania sedge, and goldenrod. Building materials include Virginia bluestone and custom glass cavity walls, designed to exhaust heat in the summer and harness it in the winter. The project is designed to meet LEED Gold Certification standards. Source by Steven Holl Architects.

Institute for Contemporary Art
Still from Aria End,
a work in progress by Peter Burr and Porpentine Charity Heartscape –
Image courtesy of the artists
  • Location: 601 W. Broad Street Richmond, VA 23284, USA
  • Architects: Steven Holl Architects
  • Design Architect: Steven Holl
  • Senior Partner In Charge: Chris McVoy
  • Project Architects: Dominik Sigg, DimitraTsachrelia
  • Associate Architects: BCWH Architects
  • Project Team: Garrick Ambrose, RychieeEspinosa, Scott Fredricks, Gary He, Martin Kropac, JongSeo Lee, Yasmin Vobis, Christina Yessios
  • Structural Engineer: Robert Silman
  • Associates Mechanical Engineer: Arup, OLDS
  • Landscape Consultant: Michael Boucher Landscape Architecture
  • Lighting Consultant: L’Observatoire International
  • Audio/Visual Consultant: ConvergentTechnologies Design Group, Inc.
  • Theater Technical Consultant: Theatre Projects Consultants
  • Area: 41000.0 ft2
  • Year: 2018
  • Photographs: Iwan Baan, Virginia Commonwealth University, Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

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