With its 2018 debut, the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) at Virginia Commonwealth University brought Richmond its first institution dedicated to modern art. Steven Holl Architects masterminded the striking Markel Center, which houses the ICA, to welcome students and the public alike. “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,” says Holl, who also designed The Reach, a recent expansion at The Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
The 41,000-square-foot ICA is clad in pre-weathered zinc in a satin finish; clear- and translucent-glass windows, walls and skylights bathe the interiors in natural light. Performance and exhibition spaces radiate from its soaring, central forum. The first floor features an airy gallery (above, right), café, shop and state-of-the-art auditorium. The second floor includes two galleries (one, above left, displayed Lee Mingwei’s “The Mending Project” in 2018) and a “learning lab;” another gallery beckons on the third floor.
The LEED Gold-certified building boasts a geothermal heating and cooling system and four green roofs to absorb storm water and offset carbon emissions. Near one of its entrances, a garden with a reflecting pool (top) is used for social gatherings and public programs. A purple-neon light installation by Tavares Strachan on an outdoor terrace perfectly encapsulates the ICA’s mission, spelling out the words “You belong here.”
Architecture: Steven Holl Architects, New York, New York. Associate Architects: BCWH Architects, Richmond, Virginia. Contractor: Gilbane, Inc., Richmond, Virginia. Photography: Iwan Baan (left and top); Terry Brown (right).