VCU Announces Plans for Institute for Contemporary Art

Architect Steven Holl will design new facility

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Virginia Commonwealth University announced plans today for the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA), a state-of-the-art facility designed by renowned architect Steven Holl that will serve as a new gateway to the university and bring the most important, cutting-edge contemporary art exhibits in the world to campus and the city of Richmond.

Located at the corner of Broad and Belvidere, near one of the most-traveled entrances to the city, the ICA will be a signature building for the School of the Arts and VCU, representing the best in international contemporary architecture and art, and a valuable community resource for Richmond. The ICA, which is expected to be about 32,000-square-feet, will feature approximately 8,000-square-feet of gallery space, an outdoor installation space, a 210-seat auditorium with tiered seating, classrooms, a gift shop, a café with a catering kitchen and an entry hall suitable for exhibitions, installations and social events. It will provide a practical and dramatic space for the VCU School of the Arts, which has the top-ranked public graduate arts program in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report.  

The ICA will be privately funded. Fundraising efforts are under way with leadership from Steve and Kathie Markel and Bill and Pam Royall. The ICA is expected to open in the spring of 2015.  

“The ICA will provide a strong cultural connection between the university and the community, offering an innovative, welcoming space and exhibition venue for a broad and diverse audience,” said Michael Rao, Ph.D., president of VCU. “The prominence of the ICA’s location, bordering the city’s Arts District and in the Broad Street corridor that links the VCU Monroe Park Campus with VCU’s Medical Center, has symbolic significance and conveys to the city VCU’s creative aspirations, especially in our top-ranked School of the Arts.”

Steven Holl Architects was selected from 64 competing architecture firms from around the world to design the ICA.

“The enterprise is elevated with our choice of architect,” said Joseph Seipel, dean of the VCU School of the Arts. “We are excited to have Steven Holl, internationally recognized as one of the most-inspired and significant architects of our time. With Holl leading this endeavor, I am confident the ICA is destined to become an iconic building for VCU and the city of Richmond.”

Holl specializes in integrating new projects into contexts with cultural and historical importance, and he emphasizes sustainable building and site development. Holl’s projects include the Cranbrook Institute of Science (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), the Knut Hamsun Center (Hamaroy, Norway), the Herning Museum of Contemporary Art (Herning, Denmark) and, perhaps most prominently, the much-celebrated addition to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City – a building that Paul Goldberger, architecture critic of The New Yorker, called “one of the best of the last generation.”

“We are very enthusiastic to be working with Virginia Commonwealth University to create architecture as a catalyst between the public and the great School of the Arts,” Holl said. “As a gate to the Monroe Park campus, a sustainable example of architecture with a sculpture garden will act as a social condenser for the university and the community.”

BCWH Architects will be the local architects on the project. BCWH Architects has 25 years of experience in award-winning architectural, planning and interior design for educational, institutional and cultural clients in Virginia. BCWH and its staff have served VCU for more than 15 years in a variety of campus planning, building design and project leadership roles, including recent projects such as the Mary and Frances Youth Center, the 2004 Master Site Plan, the proposed General Classroom Building and the School of Pharmacy renovations.

The ICA will be a non-collecting institution. It will initiate programming and collaborate with other institutions around the world on traveling exhibitions and other events. Offerings will include art and design exhibitions, public lectures, film screenings, performances, educational experiences, children’s programs, labs, artists’ residencies, international awards, symposia and community events and outreach efforts. ICA programming will be designed to engage the wider community, and its events and programs will serve area audiences.

The VCU School of the Arts is comprised of 16 programs and more than 3,000 students. VCUarts is recognized as a hotbed of artistic creation and expression where emerging artists explore their potential and strive for the high standards set by faculty members acknowledged for their inspiration and achievement.

As part of a large research university, the ICA also will provide opportunities to engage students, faculty, artists and others in experimental work that includes collaborations across the arts, sciences, humanities and business, enhancing the student experience.