Richmond has long experienced a creative paradox with VCU: How could a school with one of the country’s most creative reputations in so many fields consistently erect such bland structures? VCU, ranked as the top public art program in the country, and with stellar reputations in advertising, graphic design and sculpture, among others, has found room to stretch on Broad Street. It’s infused the blocks west of Belvidere with life, and prosperity. But the dorms and class buildings are mostly forgettable, and mostly make no attempt to engage pedestrians, or delight with the kind of creativity VCU has become known for. As an urban university in a city with a rich architectural heritage, the university must make efforts to fit into its historic surroundings and conform to the grid, as well. While there are certainly ways to do this more successfully, VCU is limited in space for splashy, contemporary buildings.
When VCU hired architect Steven Holl to design its new Institute for Contemporary Art, it had a chance to snag a signature building for a university without one, and one devoted to the arts. Privately funded, and on a sprawling parking lot at a busy intersection, the building had the chance (and the lack of constraints) to make a statement.
Architect Steven Holl has. Have a look for yourself.
I can’t wait to see it grace the ugly pavement corner with a gateway that VCU, and Richmond, deserve.