As construction crews removed the scaffolding and support systems around the exterior of the Markel Center last summer, the sloping plane that supports the auditorium seating was revealed. In keeping with the ICA’s mission to be ever-changing, Steven Holl Architects designed the auditorium to be a flexible and dynamic space that can accommodate the broadest possible range of contemporary performance art and programming needs.

Rising at a dramatic 32-degree angle from the ground, the incline of the auditorium’s seating bank ensures excellent sightlines for 240 seats. A high-tech space, the auditorium will have built-in, state-of-the-art systems for theatrical lighting and sound; advanced projection equipment; and a stage that houses a cyclorama (a curved wall used as the background of a stage), cinema-quality movie screen, and black-out filters and curtains. All of these systems, which will be installed in 2017, can be controlled from a projection booth at the back of the room or coordinated by our production staff via wireless tablets. The sound system will also include dual-channel audio broadcasting capabilities, allowing lectures and other presentations to be simulcast in two languages. Built-in recording equipment will be installed to ensure documentation of select programming in order to make content available online to students and researchers. Totaling more than 2,900 ft2, the auditorium walls will be lined with natural cherry panels.

In addition to extending the ICA’s capability to present the most diverse range of contemporary art and performances, the auditorium will also be a nexus for our ambitious, interdisciplinary educational programs in service to the VCU community. The space will be used for performances, lectures, film screenings, musical acts, and additionally, as a classroom, serving a variety of VCU’s academic disciplines.

1. Exterior auditorium from Belvidere Street, October 2016
2. Front view of concrete foundation for auditorium seating, October 2016
3. Detail of concrete foundation for auditorium seating, September 2016
4. Rendering of the auditorium ©Steven Holl Architects