Located on the eastern edge of the Virginia Commonwealth University campus at the corner of Belvidere and Broad Streets, Steven Holl’s Institute for Contemporary Art will act as threshold to the university and the city. The core of the building is a double-height “forum” cased in a twisting facade to the north and intersected by a performance space jutting southward. These frame the glass facade of the east-facing entrance—a visual gateway leading from the city to the university that allows for transparency and natural light while activating the weathered zinc facade at night. Radiating from the forum are a series of long rectangular galleries stacked atop one another at varying angles towards the east, framing the sculpture garden and funneling visitors to the secondary entrance facing the university. Glass facades at the ends of the stacked galleries can be projected onto from within to animate the sculpture garden.
Holl conceived of these radiating galleries as an embodiment of “forking time,” his suggestion that the art world exists in a series of parallel timelines rather than in an over-arching linear narrative of history. The four gallery spaces are, therefore, completely flexible. The galleries can accommodate exhibitions separately or in combination with one another and circulation throughout can remain uninterrupted during installation. On the first floor a cafe opens onto the garden, as does a pivot door from the ground level gallery that allows evening events to spill outside. The fluidity of this space “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,” Holl said in a statement.
Architect: Steven Holl Architects
Structural Engineer: Robert Silman Associates
Mechanical Engineer: Arup
Client: Virginia Commonwealth University
Location: Richmond, VA