The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston will soon occupy both banks of the Boston Harbor (Seaport and East Boston) as its exhibition space, ICA Watershed, opens to the public on July 4. The new extension was designed by Cambridge-based studio Anmahian Winton Architects.

The 15,000-square-foot Watershed will showcase contemporary art and was built from the ruins of an abandoned copper pipe and sheet metal facility known as the East Boston Shipyard. It is accessible by water taxi, car, and public transportation, and will open every summer from late May to early October.

Anmahian Winton tore down most of the Watershed’s derelict predecessor but preserved some of its iconic elements, such as the crane, monorail hoists, and railroad tracks. They also incorporated new industrial materials such as the translucent polycarbonate walls for the facade.

New harborside space with hangar door raised and new public “patio”. (Florian Holzherr)

The architects wanted to challenge the customary “white room/black box” gallery setting and introduced an unpolished industrial space for exhibiting Boston-specific artwork. According to a statement from Anmahian Winton , “a 250-foot-long slot skylight shines through new steel trusses, allowing light to wash down the richly textured concrete-and-cinderblock surface of an existing wall that had once supported the loading and unloading of rail cars running through the building.”

Each of the two end walls are particularly emphasized and hold monumental hangar doors that can be raised to open up the gallery to the shipyard and harbor.

New roof and truss structure with slot skylight, gelled as part of artist Diana Thater exhibition. (Florian Holzherr)

The Watershed’s inaugural exhibition was created by Los Angeles-based video artist Diana Thater. Her site-specific installations transform architectural space through projected videos. Thater’s piece at the Watershed will explore themes of nature and perception through moving images, light, and color.

Related Stories