The ICA Watershed is a large-scale, industrial space for contemporary art located directly across Boston Harbor from the ICA/Boston Museum. The site, an abandoned copper pipe factory in the East Boston Shipyard, is an active, industrial yacht basin. The Watershed project builds on the ICA/Boston’s history of public art projects and connects deeply with the vibrant East Boston community, welcoming its neighbors and celebrating its new use.
The 15,000 square foot space of the Watershed exists where a derelict structure once stood between two existing industrial buildings. Although the building’s original structure had to be torn down, the design retains several of its iconic elements—crane and monorail hoists, railroad tracks—referencing its history and connecting it to the neighborhood’s origins.
Breaking with the customary “white room / black box” gallery model, daylight plays a seminal role within the long, narrow building envelope. A 250’ long slot skylight shines through new steel trusses, allowing light to wash down the richly textured concrete-and-cinderblock surface of a wall that had once supported the loading and unloading of rail cars running through the building. A translucent polycarbonate skin clads the steel frames of the building’s two end walls, punctuated by monumental hangar doors. This luminous connection to shipyard, harbor, and city, invites the public to and through the building, revealing the Shipyard’s industrial history, and welcoming visitors as participants in The Watershed’s experience.