Steven Holl Architects Unveils VCU Institute for Cotemporary Art at Meulensteen Gallery

Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

Steven Holl Architects have just unveiled Commonwealth University’s new Institute for Contemporary Art. With an inviting sense of openness, the building will form a gateway into the University, linking the city of Richmond to the campus. A dynamic architectural promenade will connect the building’s most important spaces, engaging visitors in a variety of changing perspectives. Flexible spaces throughout the building will be capable of accommodating a vast assortment of exhibitions and performances.

Continue after the break for more images and the architect’s project description.

Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

VCU Institute for Cotemporary Art Project Description:

Sited at the edge of the Virginia Commonwealth University campus in Richmond, Virginia, the new Institute for Contemporary Art will link the University with the surrounding community. On the busiest intersection of Richmond at Broad and Belvidere Streets, the building will form a gateway to the University with an inviting sense of openness. The main entrance is formed by an intersection of the performance space and forum, adding a vertical “Z” component to the “X-Y” movement of the intersection. The torsion of these intersecting bodies is joined by a “plane of the present” to the galleries in “forking time.”

Ground Floor - Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

The idea of “forking time” suggests that in the world of contemporary art there are many parallel times. The notion of one ongoing time and its “grand narrative” of history is questioned. The new Institute for Contemporary Art is organized in four galleries, each with a different character. Flexibility allows for four separate exhibitions, one continuous exhibition, or combinations. Galleries can be closed for installations without affecting the circulation to the others. One can begin the sequence through the four galleries by taking the oversized elevator to the top and circling down, or by beginning at the lower gallery of the forum and moving up. Exposed concrete beams and planks in the galleries complement the concrete floors. As flexible spaces, the galleries can accept suspended art or projects anchored to the floor slab.

Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

Vertical movement along the “plane of the present” links the galleries, the performance space, sculpture garden, and forum. Along this architectural promenade, the integration of all the building elements can be experienced in changing views.

Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

The 38,000 sq ft building has a double front: one side opens from the city, the other from the sculpture garden to the forum, linking city and campus. On the ground level, the café opens directly onto the sculpture garden, as does the ground level gallery. Pivot doors allow opening events to spill out into the garden. Paved in bluestone gravel, the garden is planted with gingko trees. A large reflecting pond of recycled water shapes the sense of this garden as a “thinking field.”

Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

The building is an experience of movement in time around the exterior as well as the interior. Approaching on foot from the west (from the University), the building unfolds in the parallax of changing perspectives. As you walk, the crunch of gravel under your feet is complemented by a view that gradually opens to reveal the lobby. If you arrive by car from the north, east, or south, the double vertical geometry in torsion marks a gateway presence, which changes shape as the car passes by. At night glowing planes of obscure glass activate the exterior. Video projections may appear on these obscure glass walls, animating the garden with art.

Section C - Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

The flexible performance space has 247 seats and a sprung floor for dance performances. The rear stage wall opens to allow the loading dock to double function as a deeper back stage.

Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

The concrete floors and exposed concrete beams of the building are complemented by the greenish-grey skin (Rheinzink).

The garden roofs include a sculpture terrace on the second level. The building is heated and cooled with geothermal wells. In developing the garden, we envision collaboration with artists for semi-permanent works.

Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

The Institute for Contemporary Art will be a new gateway and catalyst, linking the University and the city of Richmond. With its inviting double-fronted forum opening to a serene sculpture garden, it will provide spatial energy for the most important cutting-edge contemporary art exhibits.

Propelled by VCU’s top-ranked School of the Arts, the ICA’s architecture is an instrument for exhibitions, film screenings, public lectures, performances, symposia, and community events, engaging the University, the city, and beyond.

Floor 2 - Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects

Architect: Steven Holl Architects
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Design Architect: Steven Holl, Chris McVoy
Project Architect: Dimitra Tsachrelia
Project Team: Garrick Ambrose, Rychiee Espinosa, Scott Fredricks, Gary He, Christina Yessios

Associate Architects:
Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates
Mechanical Engineer: Arup
Landscape Architect: Michael Boucher Landscape Architecture
Lighting Consultant: L’Observatoire International
Audio / Visual Consultant: Convergent Technologies Design Group, Inc.

Building Area: 32000 sq. feet / 2973 sq. meters
Materials: Concrete, Weathered Zinc
Structural System: Cast in place and precast concrete; reinforced concrete shear walls
Photographs: Steven Holl Architects

Floor 3 - Courtesy of Steven Holl Architects
Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "Steven Holl Architects Unveils VCU Institute for Cotemporary Art at Meulensteen Gallery" 26 Apr 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 May 2015. <>
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  • Andrei P

    Mmm, very nice

  • Lê Minh Tuấn

    So cool!

  • Mr. Bojangles

    Great project for the City of Richmond, in the perfect location. All the archiblabber about linking the City and the University smacks of a celebrity helicopter architect justifying some wacky angles in the plan. The truth is that VCU is fully integrated into the fabric of the City, and could not be more “linked” than it already is. Regardless, it looks like it will be a beautiful building, financed privately no less.