institute for contemporary art by steven holl set to break ground
institute for contemporary art by steven holl set to break ground institute for contemporary art by steven holl set to break ground
may 13, 2014

institute for contemporary art by steven holl set to break ground

work is set to get underway at virginia commonwealth university’s institute for contemporary art in richmond, virginia. designed by internationally acclaimed architect steven holl, the multidisciplinary institution will facilitate visual art, theater, music, dance and film performances for both academic and public audiences, in collaboration with the VCU school of the arts. the 38,000 square foot building forms an important civic gateway, with one entrance oriented to face the city and the other fronting VCU’s neighboring campus. internally, a double-height atrium serves as a flexible volume, encouraging both spontaneous interaction and planned events.

all images courtesy of steven holl architects



individual galleries branch out from this central hub, encircling an external area of recreation. fluid circulation routes dissolve formalities often associated with traditional facilities of this type. three connected levels of gallery space extend throughout the structure, allowing visitors to traverse the building naturally through a number of different routes.

reception space and entry forum within the design



the program also includes a 247-seat auditorium, a cafe, classrooms and office space, with the intention of forming an educational and cultural resource for the city. accessed through large pivoting doors, the ground level boundary is blurred to create a seamless transition from inside to out. externally, the institute’s walls are pre-weathered, with a satin finish complimenting the structure’s urban setting. additional clear and translucent glass divisions create transparency, inviting natural light to enter during the day and radiating light at night.

rendering of the naturally lit first floor gallery



from an environmental perspective, geothermal wells heat and cool the building, with green roofs providing insulation and absorbing storm water runoff. additionally, curtain walls exhaust the strong solar gain of summer while insulating against the cold winter weather.

steven holl institute for contemporary art designboom
watercolor drawing of the building’s entry forum



‘we have designed the building to be a flexible, forward-looking instrument that can illuminate the transformative possibilities of contemporary art, 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’, explains steven holl.


UPDATE: on may 12, 2014 it was announced that construction work will get underway on-site in june 2014. work is expected to last two years, with the arts complex opening its doors to the public in 2016.

steven holl institute for contemporary art designboom
watercolor indicating the immediate context of the institute

model of virginia commonwealth university’s institute for contemporary art looking southeast

elevational cross section, again looking southeast

  • Steven Holl is fantastic at this scale of building. Something seems to get lost on his extremely large projects.

    Brad says:
  • The ICA is a fascinating project. It is also a significant addition to Richmond’s collection of modernism. If anyone is interested, here is an interview with Steven Holl about the ICA and his career in general:

    ArchitectureRichmond says:
  • this could very well be his best ever work

    dbkii says:
  • A beautiful building. Great for Modern Art but too good for Contemporary Art which I think will be subject to a great culling before the end of this century. Contemporary culture seems to be pursuing the lowest common denominator in all the arts and over paying for it.

    Kenneth Smythe says:

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

architecture news

keep up with our daily and weekly stories
492,115 subscribers
- see sample
- see sample