Virginia Commonwealth University Unveils Design for New Multidisciplinary Arts Institution Designed by Steven Holl Architects

Institute for Contemporary Art Will Serve as a Catalyst for Exhibitions, Programs, Research and Collaboration Across Campus and Throughout Richmond

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) today unveiled the design for the new Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) designed by Steven Holl and Chris McVoy. Part exhibition and performance space, part lab and incubator, the 38,000-square-foot building will feature a series of flexible programming spaces for the presentation of visual art, theater, music, dance and film for both on-campus and public audiences. The facility also encompasses a 247-seat auditorium, outdoor plazas, a sculpture garden, classrooms, a café and administrative offices. Scheduled to open in 2015, the ICA will be located on a site defined by Belvidere and Broad Streets, one of Richmond’s busiest intersections, and will feature dual entrances—one facing Richmond and the other fronting VCU’s campus—to advance its mission as an educational and cultural resource for both the University and the City.

The ICA will enhance and expand the role of the arts on campus, serving as both an academic and extracurricular resource for students and faculty from every department, including VCU’s acclaimed School of the Arts (VCUarts), which U.S. News & World Report ranked as the top public university graduate art program in the country.

Steven Holl Architects’ design for the ICA will be presented in an exhibition opening April 26 at New York’s Meulensteen gallery. “Forking Time” includes more than 30 study models and concept drawings that depict the design’s evolution.

“The ICA will be an incredible new resource for education, experimentation and enjoyment for both VCU and Richmond,” said Virginia Commonwealth University President Michael Rao. “The ICA brings a vital new dimension to us as a research university, providing students with opportunities apply the arts to their own studies and to work across a variety of disciplines. Steven Holl Architects’ design perfectly captures our vision and mission and we look forward to the dynamic collaborations the ICA will spark on campus, within the region and around the world.”

Sited at the corner of Belvidere and Broad Streets, the ICA will form a gateway between the University and the city, and serve as a catalyst for contemporary art on campus and throughout Richmond. At the heart of the ICA will be an inviting, double-height “forum,” a flexible space for both spontaneous encounters and planned events that intersects with the performance space at the corner and opens to the sculpture garden and cafe. The galleries radiate out from the forum in forked arms, shaping the space of the garden. Large pivot doors open to the garden in order to create a seamless interplay between interior and exterior spaces. The open circulation serves to remove the formal protocols associated with entering traditional arts facilities. The three levels of galleries are linked through the open forum, allowing artists to create works that extend across, and visitors to circulate through, the spaces via a variety of paths. The ICA’s exterior will combine pre-weathered satin-finish zinc, and clear and translucent glass walls to create transparency with its urban setting and to bring natural light into the building during the day and radiate light at night, signaling the activities taking place within.

“We have designed the building to be a flexible, forward-looking instrument that can illuminate 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.”

“The ICA will be a catalyst for new kinds of artistic explorations and discourse for the VCU community and will allow us to mount large-scale exhibitions, installations and commissions in all media,” said Joseph Seipel, Dean of VCU’s School of the Arts. “We envision that the ICA will become a new destination and the building will serve as a beacon for contemporary art and ideas in Richmond.”

In advancement of VCU’s commitment to science, technology, and environmental responsibility, the ICA’s design incorporates many environmentally-friendly elements, making use of natural resources whenever possible. This includes the use of geothermal wells to provide heating and cooling energy for the building, green roofs to absorb storm water and maximize insulation, and glass walls designed to exhaust heat in the summer and harness it in the winter. The project is designed to meet LEED platinum certification standards. BCWH will serve as local architect of record in Richmond.

The ICA will serve as a cornerstone of Richmond’s already vibrant arts community, joining the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Science Museum of Virginia, the Virginia Opera, Barksdale Theatre, Richmond Ballet and the Richmond Symphony. VCUarts is one of the nation’s leading arts schools, with distinguished alumni and noted artists on faculty across its more than 16 areas of study at campuses in Richmond and Qatar. VCU is also home to the Anderson Gallery, which for 35 years has organized and presented exhibitions, programs and publications that explore a broad range of currents in contemporary art and design.

A capital campaign is underway for the $32 million project, with $16M raised to date, including two lead gifts of $5M apiece from Kathie and Steve Markel and Pam and Bill Royall, who together chair the ICA’s Campaign Committee. A director search is in process, and the university hopes to break ground in 2013.