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Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Contemporary Art

The building’s technically complex structure required a customized shoring and bracing plan to support the visually dramatic design features.

Sequencing critical in delivery of art Institute in downtown richmond

The Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA) is a non-collecting art museum located in the heart of downtown Richmond, Virginia at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). The building’s dramatic structural form of zinc and frosted glass serves as a flagship space for VCU’s #1 ranked public art school. The building, designed by world renowned architect Steven Holl, includes many unique design elements:

  • Curved concrete walls
  • Curving interior plaster walls
  • Acid-etched glass and steel curtainwall
  • Cantilevered precast floors
  • Flat and curved zinc metal panels
  • Two reflecting ponds
  • 42 geothermal wells
  • Over six miles of in-floor radiant tubing.

Take a walk through the finished building with designers in this video clip. The open design of the ICA features exhibition and programming spaces that can support widely varied forms of contemporary art. On the first floor, a 4,000 square-foot gallery, café, bar and concept shop radiate from the ICA’s central forum and frame an outdoor garden. Referred to by the architect as the “Thinking Field,” the garden will be used for social gatherings and public programs. The first floor also features a state-of-the-art, 240-seat auditorium for film screenings, performances, lectures and other programs. The second floor includes two forking galleries and an adaptable “learning lab” for interactive engagement. It also includes a publicly accessible terrace, featuring one of four green roofs. The third floor features a gallery with soaring, 33-foot-high walls and houses an administrative suite and a boardroom. Additional staff offices are located on the building’s lower level, which also includes a lobby for visitors, art storage and preparation facilities, a fabrication workshop, a green room, the catering kitchen and general storage. All of the galleries can house suspended art or art anchored to the floor slab. This was meant to facilitate experimentation with how art is presented, through blending performing and visual arts and by harvesting the creativity and distinctiveness that flows all throughout VCU and the surrounding community.

Client Value

The construction team worked tirelessly to bring VCU’s vision to life. The structure utilized multiple materials including steel, precast concrete planks, cast-in-place concrete and custom structural steel curtainwalls to form dramatic design features: cantilevered floors and beams, curved concrete walls, structural topping slabs and a 72 foot-tall sloped and curved steel and zinc façade.

The construction team had to develop an elaborate shoring and bracing plan to support the structural elements during construction. They needed to be meticulously sequenced to maintain the structural integrity. To solve this puzzle, the team blended the Revit model and P6 scheduling software with Synchro software. This enabled the team and trade contractors to evaluate different sequences and site logistics by visualizing them in a 3D animation. Synchro helped determine the temporary bracing plan and allowed follow-on trades to visualize the project schedule and sequence, which was difficult to convey in traditional 2D plans and bar chart schedules.