It is not often that an institution is able to completely reinvent itself, but that is exactly what the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston has been able to do, and with it, set a new tone for the city's art and museum scene. Due in large part to the efforts of museum director Jill Medvedow, ICA has garnered itself an architecturally-prized new home and its own permanent collection—the first time in the museum's 70-year-history it has actually been able to amass artwork.
Chosen in 1999 to be the “cultural cornerstone” of the 20-plus acre site of Boston's Fan Pier waterfront development project, New York-based Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) were selected in 2001 as the building architects. Known for their museum installations and multi-media projects, ICA is DS+R's first built commission, and the first new museum to be built in Boston in more than 100 years.
The project's main architectural gesture is a metal and wood “ribbon” that folds back on itself, organizing the sectional separation between the upper level galleries, the glass-enclosed theater, the ground floor lobby, museum shop, and café, and the museum's waterfront seating area and promenade (right). The extensive use of translucent and transparent glass, blurs the edge between interior and exterior, as visitors are provided different environments in which to engage the art, the building, the view, and the city (see image gallery).
The building's other primary spaces—the theater and Mediatheque—offer a contrasting engagement with the site and with lighting. Whereas the Mediatheque, offers a contemplative space in which to think about art (see image gallery), the theater, with its two glass walls is an active space, which invites visitors to physically engage with the building, the water, and the city. An integrated shading system within the curtain wall allows the auditorium to go from full blackout to completely translucent, allowing for a variety of functions and performance types. In certain areas, such as the four-story interior staircase, the lighting, practical in its solution—28W T5 fluorescent lamps—takes on a sculptural quality in its vertical arrangement (see image gallery).
ICA offers a dynamic museum-going experience, the likes of which Boston has not seen, and one that rivals other prominent collections in the United States. A destination worth traveling to, the new ICA encourages visitors to reimagine the museum's potential as a thought-provoking cultural experience. A|L
An elegant design that doesn't falter. | Uses conventional products to create unconventional solutions. | The gallery spaces are inviting while being art-friendly. | A project that chooses to celebrate its sculptural qualities.
Project Location: Boston Design Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro, New York Architect of Record: Perry Dean Rodgers|Partners Architects, Boston Lighting Designer: Arup Lighting, New York Structural, M/E/P Engineers and Controls: Arup, New York Theater Consultant: Fishers Dachs Associates, New York Photographer: Andy Ryan, Cambridge, Massachusetts Project Size: 65,000 square feet Total Building Cost: $32 million (including site) Lighting Cost: $1.4 million Watts per Square Foot: 1.3 Manufacturers: Bega, Belfer, Columbia, Elliptipar, Erco, Kurt Versen, Light Controls and Design, Lithonia, Litelab, Louis Poulsen, Lutron, Selux, Sistemalux, Sterner