Institute of Contemporary Art

  • 65,000ft2 building with dramatic 80ft cantilever.
  • First new museum in Boston in 100 years.
  • 17,000ft2 of exhibition space and 325-seat theatre.

The design challenge for Boston’s ICA was to meet the museum’s space and exhibition needs within a footprint constrained by a 75ft height limit and a high water table due to its location on the city's Fan Pier.

The result, after more than 30 models, was a competition-winning design. This cantilevered the top two floors of a four-storey structure 80ft towards the water’s edge, creating a column-free gallery space at the top. There is a dramatic, sheltered outdoor waterfront space below.

Arup’s work on the project encompassed structural engineering and building services engineering(mechanicalelectrical and plumbing), as well as fire engineering and lighting design.

Two enormous trusses support the overhanging top floors, home to 15ft-high open galleries and a media center whose angled contour dips down out of the overhang.

Below the top level galleries, Boston Harbor serves as backdrop for the stage of a 325-seat theatre. The glass walls vary from transparent to opaque depending on performance requirements.

The building also houses educational facilities, a gift shop and restaurant.

Construction began in September 2004 and the ICA opened in December 2006.


  • Institute of Contemporary Art, building from a distance. Credit Andy Ryan.Open gallery

    Cantilevering the top floors towards the water’s edge created a column-free gallery space and a dramatic waterfront below.

  • Institute of Contemporary Art, cantelever with media centre below. Credit Andy Ryan.Open gallery

    Two enormous trusses support the overhanging top floors, home to open galleries and a media center that dips down into space.