The Virginia Center for Architecture is currently hosting ‘Forking Time,’ an exhibition by Steven Holl Architects focusing on the design for the new Virginia Commonwealth University Institute for Contemporary Arts (ICA). Holl, last year’s American Institute for Architects Gold Medal winner, is considered by some to be the nation’s leading architect. Projects such as Kansas City’s Nelson Atkins Museum, the “Horizontal Skyscraper” in Shenzhen, China, and Simmons Hall at M.I.T. are among his most famous works.
Based in New York and Beijing, the firm tackles projects all around the world. Steven Holl and senior partner Chris McVoy have designed the new ICA which is slated for completion in 2015. The exhibition, originally displayed at the Meulensteen Gallery in New York City, opened in Richmond on September 13th and will be on view until October 18th.
The heart of the exhibition is 30 some small study models culminating in a large model of the completed, or nearly completed, design of the ICA. Earlier iterations are formal exercises; various sculptural pieces with varying degrees of abstraction. It is the early models that are perhaps the show’s highlight. The intimate scale of the work and the generally high level of craft in the models make them visually appealing; Indian miniature painting comes to mind.
Each model is accompanied by one of Holl’s signature water colors. The progression of the models and paintings is easy to follow, later pieces being just shades off of the final design. A few exceptions include a pair of models a third of the way through this progression. One features a group of dark, stone-like fused elements, the other looks like a cube eroded from the inside. Holl is thought, by some, to be an architect who works in distinct modes. In these models we can see a design approach more reminiscent of his M.I.T. dorm or Chengdu’s “Sliced Porosity Block” as opposed to the final design which is more closely related to his Nelson Atkins addition or the Surf Museum in Biarritz, France.
Aside from these objects, the exhibition includes a bit of wall text and a screen displaying some computer renderings. Some wall mounted plans or sections could have been useful, but it is difficult to criticize the handsome minimalism of the exhibit.
If you have not yet seen the exhibit, it is well worth the visit. After all, it is not often that world renowned architects show work in our city, much less work on a major local project.
ArchitectureRichmond writer Edwin Slipek’s recent review of the show in Style Magazine:
The Architect’s Mind: How did Steven Holl create Richmond’s new Institute of Contemporary Art?
Virginia Center for Architecture:
Steven Holl Architects: