See Steven Holl's Translucent Multidisciplinary Art Center for Virginia Commonwealth University

A rendering of the exterior and garden of Virginia Commonwealth University's Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) in Richmond, VA. Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the ICA is scheduled to open in 2015.
(Courtesy Steven Holl Architects)

Using their signature mastery of space, light, and seamlessly connecting unlike things, Steven Holl Architects have designed a luminous Institute for Contemporary Arts (ICA) for Virginia Commonwealth University's art program, a hybrid exhibition space, performance venue, lab, and incubator for the visual arts, theater, music, dance, and film.

The structure of satin zinc-finished rectangular forms was designed to highlight the university's emphasis on connecting these disparate art forms. Likewise, the interior spaces — angled white cubes generously illuminated with skylights — flow fluidly into one another. "There’s a kind of open-endedness to the building that parallels the condition of contemporary art — different kinds of art and time happening simultaneously," Steven Holl explained to ARTINFO. The geometries inside follow the protruding blocks of the exterior, radiating like spokes from the 30-foot-tall vertical gallery, the glass façade of which faces the city of Richmond and connects it to the university.

There’s a seamlessness between the outside and inside as the glass walls flood the space with natural light while offering outsiders a glimpse of the goings-on inside, resulting in particularly striking effect during the evening, when the glowing institute resembles a lantern. Nestled in the negative space formed by the forking arms of the building is an open garden, and large pivoting doors would allow an installation to spill from the gallery into the outdoors. As an added bonus the glass deflects heat in the summer and retains it in the winter. These features, along with plans for geothermal wells and green roofs, mean the building will meet LEED platinum certification standards. The ICA also features a 240-plus seat performance space, outdoor plazas, classrooms, a café, and administrative offices.

While students enter the institute from the garden entrance, an outward-facing transparent façade sits on the corner of a burgeoning arts district, already home to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia Opera, Barksdale Theatre, Richmond Ballet, and the Richmond Symphony. The multi-use, discipline-blending center is scheduled to open in 2015. In the meantime, Holl’s scale models and concept watercolors will be on view in an exhibition opening tomorrow at New York’s Meulensteen Gallery that will trace the development of the ICA's final design.

To see more of Steven Holl's designs for VCU's ICA, click the slide show.