architect: Steven Holl Architects

location: Virginia Commonwealth University

year: 2018

Steven Holl Architects have recently designed the new Institute for Contemporary Art at the VCU, Virginia Commonwealth University, that will open in Spring 2018.
The Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is a non-collecting institution that will showcase a fresh slate of changing exhibitions and programs ranging from innovative visual and performing arts to various forms of design and film.
The ICA is already active in Richmond and on VCU’s campus through programs, faculty and student collaboration, and artistic commissions, and will continue to engage the VCU and Richmond communities through special programs prior to the opening.
The new contemporary art institution is designed by Steven Holl Architects and located at the intersection of Richmond’s historic Belvidere and Broad streets, one of the city’s busiest junctures. The ICA 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. Free of charge to all visitors, the ICA will be a significant new cultural resource for Richmond and VCU, in direct dialogue with VCU School of the Arts.
The ICA will offer a vital new dimension to a premier urban research university, and contribute to a national and international cultural dialogue. With nearly 41,000 square feet of flexible space, including an inviting 33-foot high central forum, the non-collecting ICA will feature a dynamic slate of changing exhibitions, performances, films, and interdisciplinary programs. The Markel Center’s 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.
The ICA’s inaugural exhibition, Declaration, will explore contemporary art’s power to catalyze change, and will feature painting, sculpture, multimedia works, site-specific installations, and time-based performances by emerging and established artists. Featuring new work by artists from around the globe, including Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr., Marinella Senatore, Paul Rucker, and Cassils, the exhibition will also include artists from Richmond’s vibrant arts community, such as VCUarts Associate Professor Hope Ginsburg and VCU alum Levester Williams.

photo by Iwan Baan

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 large café, bar, and retail space radiate from the ICA’s central forum and frame an outdoor garden, which Steven Holl describes as the “Thinking Field,” that will be used for social gatherings, temporary art installations, and public programs. The first floor also features a state-of-the-art 240-seat auditorium for film screenings, live performances, lectures, and community programs.
The second floor includes two forking galleries and an adaptable learning lab for interactive educational engagement that will be open to the public. It also includes an accessible terrace—one of the four green roofs—that will be programmed with art works and available for special events. The soaring 33-foot-high gallery on the ICA’s third floor will feature large-scale installations and experimental projects. The third floor also houses one of the administrative suites and the boardroom. Additional staff offices are located in the building’s lower level, which also includes a lobby for visitors, art storage and preparation facilities, a fabrication workshop, a green room, the catering kitchen, and general storage.
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.

title ICA Institute for Contemporary Art
architect Steven Holl Architects
location VCU Virginia Commonwealth University
year of the project 2017
year of the opening 2018
communication company Resnicow & Associates
photographs Iwan Baan