Today, the International Center of Photography (ICP), the world’s leading institution dedicated to photography and visual culture, opened its new museum space in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP (SOM), the facility features a glass-fronted public space, accessible from the street, and a ticketed gallery where ICP will present exhibitions and public programs. SOM’s design allows ICP, long based in Midtown Manhattan, to connect with the energy and dynamism of an emerging arts district on the Bowery.
“Our design for the ICP Museum opens a new chapter for this important cultural institution. With a strong connection to the street and a dynamic sequence of exhibition spaces, the ICP Museum serves as a platform for the dialogue and public engagement that is central to ICP’s mission,” said Roger Duffy, SOM Design Partner.
In renovating the ground floor and below-grade levels of a residential building at 250 Bowery, SOM sought to connect the arts institution with the spontaneity of the street, and to channel the informality of commercial buildings adapted by artists for work, exhibition, and gathering. From the street, large windows invite visitors to explore the building’s public space and enter the ICP Museum’s expansive, multipurpose Front Gallery. A cafe with its own street entrance spills into the Front Gallery, and a large Rear Gallery lies toward the back. The basement Lower Gallery is accessible by elevator and stair. SOM’s design allows the ICP Museum to exhibit work in many ways, and ceiling-mounted power grids in all galleries enable flexible and precise lighting.
Exposed ceilings elevate the perceived volume of low gallery floor-to-floor heights. Left exposed and painted white, the ductwork works in concert with the concrete-finished structural columns to define the elemental experience of the museum. The center’s street-level entrances and windows are framed by thick stainless steel, reflecting both the craft and resilience of the institution, as well as its context on the Bowery. Through its organization of space, material expression, and minimalist sensibility, the design intensifies a sense of experimentation at this downtown arts venue.
“SOM’s design really captures the spirit of who we are and plugs us into the energy of the Bowery,” said Mark Lubell, ICP Executive Director. “We wanted a museum that’s open and inviting. SOM gave us a space that advances ICP’s mission to serve as a forum for dialogue about photography and visual culture, and positions us to bring our exhibitions and programs to new, diverse audiences.”
The ICP Museum opens its new space with an inaugural exhibition, Public, Private, Secret, which explores the concept of privacy in contemporary society and studies how self-identity is tied to public visibility. The exhibition is open to the public through January 2017.
About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world, with an 80-year reputation for design excellence and a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries. Since its inception, SOM has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and the physical environment. The firm’s longstanding leadership in design and building technology has been honored with nearly 2,000 awards for quality, innovation, and management. The American Institute of Architects has recognized SOM twice with its highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award—in 1962 and again in 1996. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Abu Dhabi.