The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is the first museum to be built in Boston in 100 years. The building includestemporary and permanent galleries, a 330-seat multi-purpose theater, arestaurant, bookstore, education / workshop facilities, and administrativeoffices.
It straddlesthe competing objectives of a dynamic civic building for public programs and anintimate, contemplative environment for viewing art. The site is bound on twosides by the Harbor Walk, a 47-mile public walkway at the water’s edgereclaimed from Boston’sindustrial past. The ICA offers the city some of its ground floor footprint inexchange for rights to cantilever over city property with an 18 000 sfuninterrupted, sky lit gallery.
The HarborWalk is used as a civic surface that extends up to form the public grandstand,flattens into the theater stage, and wraps the surfaces of the theaterextending into a horizontal tray that holds the gallery and shelters thegrandstand.
Thebuilding’s public spaces are built from the ground up and private contemplativespaces, from the sky down. The waterfront is both a great asset for the museumand a distraction from its inwardly focused program.
Achoreographed passage through the building dispenses the visual context in smalldoses. Upon entry, the view is compressed under the belly of the theater, thenscanned by the glass elevator, used as a variable backdrop in the theater,denied entirely in the galleries, and revealed as a panorama at the crossovergallery.
The digitalmedia gallery suspended under the cantilever edits the context from view,leaving only the mesmerizing texture of water.