International Center of Photography

Long based in Midtown Manhattan, the International Center of Photography (ICP) moved its gallery to the Bowery, an emerging arts corridor in New York City. In renovating its new home inside the ground and basement levels of a primarily residential building, SOM sought to connect the ICP with the spontaneity of the street and the informality of commercial buildings that artists have adapted for work, exhibition, and gathering.

A goal of the design was to pay special attention to the gallery space within the overall program. From the street, large windows invite visitors to explore the building’s public space and enter the ICP’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. Key features allow the ICP 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. The ductwork, left exposed and painted white, 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.