Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) unveiled the design for a 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 by nationally and internationally recognized artists. The facility also encompasses a 240-plus seat performance space, outdoor plazas, a sculpture garden, classrooms, a café and administrative offices. Scheduled to open in 2015, this non-collecting institution is designed to facilitate the way artists are working today by accommodating the increasing lack of barriers among different media and practices, mirroring the cross-disciplinary approach at VCU’s School of the Arts (VCUarts). VCUarts has long been the top public university graduate arts and design program in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. The ICA will complement and enhance the offerings of VCU while also serving as a new destination for contemporary arts and culture in the region.

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 a transformational resource for arts education, experimentation and for the enhancement of VCU and Richmond as a capital city committed to the arts,” said Virginia Commonwealth University President Michael Rao. “The ICA brings a vital new dimension to us as a national research university, providing highly motivated students with opportunities to engage the arts in their learning experiences and to work across a range of disciplines. Steven Holl Architects’ design captures our global vision and commitment to human excellence. We look forward to the dynamic collaborations that the ICA will spark at VCU, within the region and around the world.”

Sited at the corner of Belvidere and Broad Streets directly off of Interstate 95, and one of Richmond’s busiest intersections, the ICA will form a gateway to the University and the city. The ICA will feature dual entrances—one facing Richmond and the other fronting VCU’s campus. At the heart of the building will be an inviting, double-height “forum,” a flexible space for both spontaneous encounters and planned events that connects to the ground-floor performance space and also 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 walls of pre-weathered satin-finish zinc will complement its urban setting. Additional clear and translucent glass walls will create transparency, bringing natural light into the building during the day and radiating light at night, signaling the activities taking place within.

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