Sweeping Shapes

JOE SEIPEL: Hi I’m Joe Seipel. I’m the interim director of the Institute for Contemporary Art here at Virginia Commonwealth University. Now that you’re in the forum space, if you look over towards the stairwell you’ll see above it is a sloop, the torquing shape, that actually mirrors the exterior of the building. And I think it’s one of the things that makes the building such an amazing edifice. It exemplifies the creative spirit of the city and the incredible focus that Virginia Commonwealth University puts on the art.

MICHAEL LEASE: Here’s Founding Director Lisa Freiman:

LISA FREIMAN: Another thing that you’ll see along with the light, which I consider to be one of the main characters of the building, is really the play between organic shapes and more geometric shapes, and that’s something that I think you see really beautifully in the forum with the grand staircase that comes in like an open arm and it sort of sweeps you up.

There’s an elevator to take upstairs too. It’s directly opposite the staircase on this level. The elevator is huge, because it’s not only for visitors. It’s also the way we move the artwork through the building.

JOE SEIPEL: Well I suggest that you either take the elevator up to the third floor, and then walk down the majestic staircase, or walk up the stairs if you want to get some exercise and them come down the elevator. They’re both great examples of Steven Holl’s focus on the detailing he employs when he’s designing a building.


Why ‘the Forum?’

MICHAEL LEASE: From the beginning of the building’s design, we’ve all called this space that you first enter – through either door – ‘The Forum’. That word is a reference to the Forum of ancient Rome, with the idea of great architecture as a gathering place for democracy. A space for public debate. The building’s architect, Steven Holl, designed it that way.

STEVEN HOLL: It works like a Forum, everybody gathers: events, openings, concerts that happen actually in the Forum space. There’s a central idea as a kind of place to bring people together as a catalyst point.

MICHAEL LEASE: As you begin your journey inside, here’s a thought from the ICA’s Founding Director Lisa Freiman:

LISA FREIMAN: My hope for each of you is that you come in and let yourself open up and be surprised by what you might experience and ask yourselves questions. We have these preconceived notions, walking into museums or galleries, that you’re supposed to be quiet, that there should be some kind of a reverential attitude. And I don’t actually believe that. I actually think that this is exactly that kind of a place: where we would hope to see and hear interactions and conversations.