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Institute of Contemporary Arts

Case Study
Group Members: Matias Maitri & Tommy Nguyen
ICA All Floor Plan 2.0.jpg

Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the Institute of Contemporary Art opened along Boston's Fan Pier on December 10th, 2016. The museum was designed as a response to the waterfront, taking advantage of the site's location by maximizing views and experiences to the water. Since opening, the ICA has been a landmark in the area, transforming the former Industrial District into a high-density and mixed-use development that helped revitalize South Boston. 

The 65,000 square foot building consists of permanent and temporary galleries, a glass elevator that serves as a primary vertical circulation, an exterior grand staircase that leads into a 330 seat multi-purpose theater, and a Mediatheque library that suspends underneath the cantilevered third floor.

ICA Institute of Contemporary Arts Desig
ICA Institute of Contemporary Arts Desig

The exterior grand staircase begins intertwining the public domain of the harbor with the museum space. The Harbor Walk is a 47-mile public walkway along both sides of the site and is extended to the public grandstand of the ICA, where pedestrians and visitors escape from the heavily inward programmed focus of the museum and away from congested city life.


The public grandstand extends up to the multi-purpose theater, and weather permitting, where the water is used as a backdrop for the theater.

Grand Stairs Section

The directors of the ICA wanted a single-story gallery space larger than the footprint of the site could permit. The cantilevering third-floor gallery hangs overs a piece of land that was not originally part of the site. The land underneath the cantilever was transferred from the city to the ICA and resulted in designing the public grandstand as a new harbor plaza. 

The cantilevering gallery is supported by four large mega trusses, each dimensioning at 175' (length) x 24' (height) and weighing over 100 tons. Three of the trusses run about North-South while the fourth is angled to conform to the site. The middle two trusses are placed 24 feet apart from the center with the outer two trusses placed 48 feet apart from the center two.

Section Cut Drawing

Suspended from the cantilevered third-floor, the Mediatheque serves as a contemplative and quiet space. Inside, computer stations are equipped with digital resources about artists and exhibitions. The space also frames a view of the water without a glimpse of the horizon and harbor; one doesn't see the context surrounding water, but context for just water.

ICA Section Model
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