The Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles

As a non-collecting institution uninhibited by art world traditions, the ICA decided to rethink the traditional gallery model when they moved to a new building in the Downtown LA Arts District. Working with the ICA to rethink the relationship between art, visitors, and staff, WHY created a new gallery space which accommodates ambitious exhibitions, new media installations, and community-led social practice art.

Key info
Design Architect
Executed by WHY Architecture Workshop Inc.
Los Angeles, CA
  • Completed 2017
  • 12,500 sq. ft.
Lead Architect

The ICA, formerly the Santa Monica Museum of Art, is renowned for providing emerging artists with a platform to exhibit, and WHY developed a series of spatial strategies to reflect the client’s mission. Most prominently, the gallery is designed to dissolve the divide between visitors and staff, merging public and operational spaces to create an immersive and welcoming mutual workspace.


ICA/LA’s three multi-sized galleries can be used simultaneously or singularly, and the spaces support diverse programming including educational initiatives and community outreach events. Rather than designing the structure as a closed system, WHY’s approach allows for continuing modifications as the organization adapts to the changing cultural landscape and new forms of artistic production.

Structural Engineer
  • KFSE
MEP Engineer
  • CEG
Acoustical Engineer
  • CSDA
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