An Arts Gateway

Institute for Contemporary Art at the Markel Center

Institute for Contemporary Art at the Markel Center

Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, Virginia

A bold new forum for the arts creates a striking campus gateway for Virginia Commonwealth University. Located at one of Richmond’s busiest downtown intersections, the building welcomes the community on two fronts: one city-facing and one campus-facing. Both entries open into a light-filled lobby that becomes a glowing beacon at night.

The Institute does not maintain a collection of its own, focusing instead on temporary exhibitions of cutting-edge works. We designed flexible galleries that provide a backdrop for a wide variety of media, from ceiling-suspended works to audio installations. A 240-seat auditorium accommodates lectures and performances.

An Arts Gateway
With its striking design…Virginia Commonwealth University’s Institute for Contemporary Art is not your average collegiate gallery. [It] has given art and architecture buffs new cause to visit the institute’s hometown.
A photo of visitors in a double height gallery space.

Celebrating the Arts

In collaboration with design architect Steven Holl Architects, we created a building that embodies the prominence of the University’s visual arts program. Consistently ranked one of the country’s best art schools, VCU can now support exhibitions of diverse contemporary media and artwork by leading artists.

A photo of the exterior of a museum showing a reflecting pool.

Outdoor Rooms

The campus-facing entrance is approached through the “thinking field,” a planted terrace and pool. The space can function as an area for quiet contemplation or as a venue for outdoor events. A rooftop sculpture terrace provides an outdoor art display space with city overlooks.

A top-down photo of a city block featuring the art museum.

Sustainable Design

The building is easily accessible and energy efficient. Its downtown location makes it easy for visitors to arrive by foot, bike, or public transportation. Three green roofs filter stormwater and provide insulation. Geothermal wells reduce the energy needed for heating and cooling.

A photo of the interior of an elevator.

That Elevator!

The Institute’s oversized elevator is designed to safely carry both passengers and art. Its lively patterned walls offer an unexpected element in a normally utilitarian space. The elevator has been so popular with visitors that the Institute began holding micro-concerts in it.

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