Institute of Contemporary Art
The new ICA is the first new museum to be built in Boston in 100 years. The 65,000 square foot building includes 18,000 square feet of galleries, a performing arts theater, a restaurant, a bookstore, education/workshop facilities, and administrative offices. The design negotiates between two competing objectives: to perform as a dynamic civic building filled with public and social activities, and as a controlled, contemplative atmosphere for individuals interacting with contemporary art. The “public` building is built from the ground up; the “intimate` building, from the sky down. The Boston Harborwalk borders the north and west edges of the ICA site. This surface, which belongs to the citizens of Boston, is metaphorically extended into the new building as a primary architectural element. The Harborwalk becomes a pliable wrapper that defines the building’s major public spaces. It folds up from the walkway into a “grandstand` facing the water, it continues through the skin of the building to form a stage, then turns up to form the theater seating, then seamlessly envelopes the theater space, ultimately, slipping out through the skin to produce the ceiling of the exterior public “room.` This ambiguous surface moves from exterior into interior, transforming public into semi-public space. Above the wrapper sits the “gallery box`: a large exhibition space on one level that dramatically cantilevers over the Harborwalk toward the water. The flexible, column-free space is 16’ high and partitioned into east and west galleries by the central core, and illuminated by uniform, diffused daylight filtered by a scrim below the skylight system. The 300-seat multi-purpose theater is fully glazed on its north and west faces, allowing the harbor view to become the backdrop for the stage. Light and view can be controlled in accordance with performance needs, from transparency and view, to filtered light and no view, to total blackout. The mediatheque is suspended from the underside of the cantilevered “gallery box` and accessed from the gallery lobby. It is equipped with computer stations with on-line access and fed by a central server providing a growing database of digital art works. The building distributes the view to the harbor in small doses: compressed at the lobby entry, scanned vertically by the glass elevator, choreographed into theater performances, denied in the galleries, revealed as a panorama at the north gallery crossover, and edited to only the texture of water at the mediatheque.


11 photos and 8 drawings

Building Activity