ICA Boston
Diller Scofidio + Renfro

November 25, 2002 /

Boston, Massachusetts, USA

ica_1.jpgPhoto: Iwan Baan

The new ICA waterfront museum ha tripled the ICA's exhibition space and provided both a world class exhibition space and a vibrant center for public performances, educational activities and waterfront access.

The facade of the new ICA consists of identically sized vertical planks that alternate in composition between transparent glass, translucent glass and opaque metal. The system provides a taught seamless skin that blurs the distinction between walls, windows and doors while responding to the requirements of the interior program.

The galleries are located on the uppermost level, dramatically cantilevered over the city's public HarborWalk toward the water; providing a sheltered open space at ground level.

The design of the ICA negotiates between two competing objectives: to perform as a dynamic civic building filled with public and social activities, and as a contemplative space providing individual visitors with intimate experiences with contemporary art. The "public" building is built from the ground up; the "intimate" building, from the sky down./ Elizabeth Diller

Photo: Iwan Baan

Photo: Iwan Baan

Photo: Iwan Baan

The floor and ceiling of the theater on the second and third floors is created through the extension of the wood HarborWalk material from the public grandstand into the interior of the building. The remaining walls are glazed in clear glass allowing the harbor view to become the backdrop behind the 48 foot stage. The glass walls can be controlled to meet performance needs, from full transparency, to filtered light and no view, to total blackout. The 300-seat theater accommodates dance, drama, music, experimental media, film, video and lectures.  

Photo: Iwan Baan

Photo: Iwan Baan

Two public entryways provide access to the museum through the first-floor lobby from the street and the HarborWalk, and the distinct tapering of the lobby directs visitors toward the information and ticketing counter, with the bookstore directly behind facing the water. A 165-square-foot glass elevator with views of the water shuttles visitors from floor to floor.

Photo: Iwan Baan

Photo: Iwan Baan

Photo: Iwan Baan

ica_10.jpgPhoto: Iwan Baan

A vertically stepped-out space suspended from the underside of a cantilevered fourth floor serves as a digital media center.  Equipped with computer stations for accessing digital artworks, digital education and interpretative materials and the Internet, the space provides a stunning perspective of the water, framed as though through a viewfinder, with neither sky nor horizon in sight.  It will be illuminated by night to become a radiant, welcoming waterfront presence.

Photo: Iwan Baan

Photo: Iwan Baan

An adjacent restaurant and cafe, facing the harbor side and Pier 4, features sliding glass doors that open to expand into exterior space for dining and performances.  The multipurpose lobby accommodates a variety of events, from openings to private parties, and performance pieces.

Image courtesy Diller + Scofidio

Image courtesy Diller + Scofidio

Image courtesy Diller + Scofidio

Image courtesy Diller + Scofidio

Facts about ICA Boston

Total area:

62,000 ft2
Gallery area: 18,000 ft2
Performing Arts Theater: 5,300 ft2

Collaborating Architects:
Perry Dean Rogers & Partners

Consultant Engineers: 

Arup Group LTD


George B. H. Macomber Company

Project Background

The Chicago-based Pritzker family, sponsors of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize and owners of the Fan Pier properties along the Boston Harbor, dedicated the .75-acre parcel on which the new ICA will be constructed for civic use. 


Institute of Contemporary Art ICA Boston

Founded in 1936, the ICA is one of the oldest museums devoted exclusively to the presentation of contemporary art.  Through a comprehensive schedule of exhibitions of local, national and international significance and educational outreach, the museum provides the public access to contemporary art, artists and the creative process.

The museum will be the cultural cornerstone of the 2.9 million square foot Fan Pier waterfront development - the largest private development project on the South Boston waterfront. 

The development includes 675 residential units, a Grand Hyatt Hotel, 107,000 square feet of civic and cultural space, several acres of parks and open areas, an extension of the HarborWalk, a protected cove and a public marina providing numerous recreational activities.  Fan Pier is a collaborative effort between the Pritzker family's Hyatt Development Corporation, development manager Spaulding & Slye Colliers, master planner Ken Greenberg and master planning architect Childs Bertman Tseckares.

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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