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Institute of Contemporary Art

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2006, Diller, Scofidio and Renfro. 100 Northern Ave.
  • (Peter Vanderwarker or Antonina Smith)
  • (Peter Vanderwarker or Antonina Smith)

At age seventy, the Institute of Contemporary Art has been born again. Heralded as harbinger of an expanding Boston waterfront, the new museum sits on a three-quarter-acre site on the harbor in South Boston. An initial impression of the museum, however, is marred by the huge parking lot, forming the main approach to the warehouselike entrance facade.

Jutting out precariously above the building's three stories, a powerful cube forms an eighty-foot-wide cantilever overhanging stepped bleachers fronting the waterside. This upper story comprises the gallery spaces, whereas the three floors below contain the educational and media facilities, auditorium, bookstore, and restaurant, in addition to offices, storage, and loading docks. In transferring from its old Boylston Street location, the ICA sought to enlarge its exhibition space and to begin acquiring a permanent collection.

Flexible and free of columns, with adjustable skylights, the galleries are enclosed by surfaces of stucco and translucent glass, masking a conventional support structure. Layers of gray-brown hardwood flooring from South America extend to the pavement of Boston Harbor. The narrow Founders' Gallery commands the prime view of harbor and city. Similarly, the glass elevator, a room in motion accommodating fifty people, provides a series of changing vistas as it traverses different levels. But the real magic of the structure is reserved for the theatrical spaces, particularly the auditorium within and the stepped arena beneath the cantilever, bordering on the sea. Even more exciting is the Mediatheque, a computer laboratory equipped with digital access to works of art. A large horizontal window slopes downward to frame a limited view of water, creating a screen composed solely of waves. Emphasis on performance arts, music, dance, film, and popular culture bode well for reaching an audience that may be receptive to the art herein displayed.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Institute of Contemporary Art", [Boston, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 223-224.

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