This evening, New York’s Meulensteen Gallery opens Steven Holl Architects’ “Forking Time” exhibition, an unveiling of the firm’s new design for the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University (ICA) in Richmond, Va. The exhibition includes more than 30 watercolors and 30 models (both digital and analog). In the exhibit, Steven Holl, FAIA, and partner Chris McVoy, AIA, attempt to chart their definitively non-linear studio design process.
The show’s title, “Forking Time,” refers to a concept present in both the New York exhibition and the design for the Richmond museum. When the ICA opens in 2015, four distinct galleries will allow for several shows to run concurrently. To the architects, the notion of forking spaces taps a vein within the current state of contemporary art—one of “multiple parallel paths being undertaken simultaneously,” according to McVoy.
Forking time also describes Steven Holl Architects’ studio process, which McVoy describes as “a kind of back and forth, where watercolor informs model, and model informs watercolor, and the models are both digital and analog.” The show at Meulensteen Gallery, which runs through June 2, depicts this back-and-forth notion through the relationship of one watercolor to the next, and between models and watercolors.
Holl’s office has completed the schematic design for the new Institute for Contemporary Art, and Virginia Commonwealth University unveiled it yesterday in a press release announcing the general project details. Meulensteen Gallery, which has shown Holl’s watercolors in the past, asked Steven Holl Architects to mount a show as the designs coalesced for the ICA. “We wouldn’t do this with any project, but because this project has a resonance with contemporary art that’s in Chelsea, and in the neighboring galleries, we felt that we could gain from that synergy,” McVoy says.
As the 38,000-square-foot ICA project is scheduled to open in 2015, the gallery show opening tonight appears to be an effort to drum up support for the ICA—although nothing in the show is for sale. “We’ve arrived at a design that we’re happy with—after trying many different things, which are shown in the exhibition—and VCU’s happy with it. … The project is ready to be unveiled to the public, so that’s the kind of timing,” McVoy explains. “Also, for fundraising, there’s a very real timing aspect.”
“We believe in this multiple forking path ourselves in our process,” McVoy says. “That we try one route, and then it leads to new things, and then we abandon other things and fork off in another direction, both in terms of media and in terms of design.”