It’s all new: name, location, and brand. That’s what Kulapat Yantrasast of wHY provided for ICA LA. Formerly the Santa Monica Museum of Art at Bergamont Station, the current designation (short for the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles) was prompted by relocation to DTLA’s arts district. New, too, is Yantrasast’s concept for the 12,700-square-foot former clothing warehouse dating to the 1970’s.”I didn’t want it look like a commercial gallery,” he begins. “When you walk in you should see people. It should feel like a community center.”
So planning centered on flexibility and interaction. Two galleries open onto a central project room-performance space with an elaborate shelving system serving as the museum shop. “You can hop right to it,” says the architect, who also created a little mezzanine for director Elsa Longhauser’s office. It, too, is immediately visible upon entry. In short, there are no silos.
What there is, though, is plenty of daylight thanks to the addition of 2 skylights. They’re part of an 18-month intervention entailing structural and systems upgrades and the refinishing of existing concrete flooring.
Just past the site’s charcoal-painted steel entry gate, a front courtyard welcomes guests and doubles as an event space. Then comes the vibrant lemon façade, a real showstopper. Thank artist Mark Bradford for that. The building’s gray and yellow tones derive from his ICA LA logo.
Speaking of shows, inaugural exhibits (on view through December 31) are Martin Ramirez’s drawings and collages created while the artist was institutionalized from 1931 to his death in 1963; multi-discipline works by Abigail DeVille; and Sarah Cain’s 800-square-foot painting for the courtyard wall. Up next: phase 2’s bold yellow canopy.