Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the ICA is a gateway between university and city, anchoring Richmond in the USA’s vibrant arts district
Opening on April 21, 2018, the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, USA, will be the first contemporary museum in Richmond, anchoring one of the city’s busiest junctures and vibrant arts district. Designed by Steven Holl the ICA will bring a vital new dimension to the research university, also serving residents and the global arts community.
Spanning 41,000 sq ft, the building comprises fluid exhibition and programming spaces across its three levels, and is capable of housing a wide range of multi-media installations. Keeping with Virginia Commonwealth University’s emphasis on sustainability, the building incorporates state-of-the-art green technologies. Integral features of the building include a 240-seat auditorium, café, four green roofs, classrooms, art storage facilities, a fabrication workshop, a terrace and catering kitchen.
About the ICA’s Design
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, which Steven Holl describes 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. The third floor features a gallery with soaring, 33-foot-high walls and 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.
“We designed the ICA to be a flexible, forward-looking instrument that will both illuminate and serve as a catalyst for the transformative possibilities of contemporary art,” said architect Steven Holl. “Like many contemporary artists working today, the ICA’s design does not draw distinctions between the visual and performing arts. The fluidity of the design allows for experimentation and will encourage new ways to display and present art that will capitalize on the ingenuity and creativity apparent throughout the VCU campus.”
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. 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. 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.
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