Institute for Contemporary Art, Virginia Commonwealth University

On the corner of Belvidere and Broad Streets in Richmond, Virginia, the new Institute for Contemporary Art defines a gateway to the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) campus on the north and connects with the city’s growing arts district to the south. Designed by Steven Holl Architects, the ICA will host gallery and performance spaces, offices, a café, and a public sculpture garden.


L’Observatoire International has long had a close collaborative relationship with Steven Holl Architects, developing a unique design process that thoughtfully combines visions for architecture and lighting design. Throughout the new ICA, light sources are carefully integrated into the architecture to create a seamless space for art and an inviting atmosphere for community. The lighting becomes an integral but silent player in the space, enhancing the architecture and complementing the Institute’s program.


Working with the rich materiality of the building, its planar and branching geometry, and its ground level porosity, the lighting helps to position the ICA as an optimal space for the art, a public space where the University and local community come together, and as a beacon that glows at night.

Location Richmond, VA, USA
Date Completed 2018
Architect Steven Holl Architects
Client Virginia Commonwealth University
Type Museums + Cultural Institutions
size32,000 ft2 / 3,000 m2
Status Built

L'Observatoire Intl Team
Principal Hervé Descottes
Project Leader Jeff Taylor
Project Team Papon Kasettratat Thomas Mnich Wei Jien
Awards AIA New York Award , 2019
Architizer A+ Award Finalist Plus Categories | Architecture +Light , 2019
IES Illumination Award of Merit , 2020
Photo Credits Iwan Baan, Steven Holl Architects