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Steven Holl's sculptural Institute for Contemporary Art set to break ground at VCU

The facility will have two entrances—one facing the city of Richmond, Va., the other toward VCU's campus—to serve as a connection between "town and gown."

May 13, 2014 |
The Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University will begi

Designed by Steven Holl, Virginia Commonwealth University's new Institute for Contemporary Art is set to break ground next month.

The 32,000-sf building will facilitate art, theater, music, dance, and film performances, in collaboration with the VCU School of Arts. 

The building has one entrance facing the city of Richmond, Va., and another facing the VCU campus, making the facility a point of connection between "town and gown," according to Design Boom.

Inside, an atrium will act as the central focal point. Individual galleries will extend outward from this hub. Visitors can make their way through the building by way of three connected levels of gallery space. 

The walls will be pre-weathered with a satin finish in order to fit in with structure's urban setting. Clear and translucent glass divisions will allow natural light to enter in the daytime and will make the building a beacon of light during the nighttime.



Holl's design includes several sustainable features. Green roofs provide insulation and absorb storm water runoff; geothermal wells heat and cool the building. 

The complex is slated to open its doors in 2016.

Holl's design essay:

Sited at the edge of the Virginia Commonwealth University campus in Richmond, Virginia, the new Institute for Contemporary Art will link the University with the surrounding community. On the busiest intersection of Richmond at Broad and Belvidere Streets, the building will form a gateway to the University with an inviting sense of openness.

The main entrance is formed by an intersection of the performance space and forum, adding a "Z" component to the "X-Y" movement of the intersection. The torsion of these intersecting bodies is joined by a "plane of the present" to the galleries in "forking time."

The idea of "forking time" suggests that in the world of contemporary art there are many parallel times. The notion of one ongoing time and its "grand narrative" of history is questioned. The new Institute for Contemporary Art is organized in four galleries, each with a different character. 



With its inviting double-fronted forum opening to a serene sculpture garden, the 38,000 sq ft building will provide spatial energy for the most important cutting-edge contemporary art exhibits. Propelled by VCU's top-ranked School of the Arts, the ICA's architecture is an instrument for exhibitions, film screenings, public lectures, performances, symposia, and community events, engaging the University, the city, and beyond.

The Building Team includes:

Architect: Steven Holl Architects

Associate architects: BCWH Architects

Structural engineer: Robert Silman Associates

Mechanical engineer: Arup

Landscape architect: Michael Boucher Landscape Architecture

Lighting consultant: L'Observatoire International

Audio/visual consultant: Convergent Technologies Design Group


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