The Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston

Institute of Contemporary Art

Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Perry Dean Rogers Partners, 2006

Harleston Parker Medal, 2007

The ICA was founded as the Boston Museum of Modern Art in 1936, and since then it has endured multiple name changes and over 13 moves. With this building in a prominent site on Boston Harbor, it finally has the home it deserves.

The ICA / Boston is a piece of performance art as well as a museum, energizing the waterfront with its demonstrative forms and inviting spaces. Conceptually it takes the harbor’s boardwalk and steps it up into bleacher-like seating, pulls it into the glass fronted theater, and then rolls it back out as the expansive soffit overhead. The museum’s public spaces take shape within the levitated boardwalk’s enveloping embrace, with the more contemplative galleries located within a translucent volume dropped on top. The result is a dynamic presence overlooking the harbor, with the cantilevered galleries about to be launched into space.

Exposed concrete and steel, along with the wood of the boardwalk, give the interior a raw but engaging character. The room-size freight elevator ferries visitors to the galleries at the top, with spectacular views out from its glass enclosure. The museum shop is squeezed by the sloped floor of the theater above, and a mediatheque angles down through the overhanging galleries to the harbor below – their contortions giving them a memorable identity. These gestures are more that architectural pyrotechnics – they are all meant to engage the public and connect them to both the waterfront and the art.

This was the first major U.S. building for MacArthur grant-winning artists and designers Elizabeth Diller and Richard Scofidio, who went on to be the lead architects for the remaking of the High Line in Manhattan among many other notable projects. This is exactly the kind of institutional and artistic incubation that Boston is meant to support.

Source: HPM Jury report