The University of Iowa celebrates its new Visual Arts Building, designed by Steven Holl Architects and BNIM, with opening ceremonies today. The 126,000-square-foot facility includes art history teaching classrooms and faculty offices, and features galleries and an outdoor, rooftop studio as well as loft-like spaces for visual arts media. The zinc-clad Visual Arts Building replaces a 1936 structure that was flooded in 2008 and incurred substantial water damage; the new facility features seven vertical cuts through its four levels of bubble-deck slab that instead allow light to flood its interiors. The largest of these cuts, dubbed the central Forum, serves as a continuation of campus pathways, with interior glass partitions allowing passersby to engage with the arts students and their work as they move through the building.
“A great social space at the center of this new building connects the arts to all disciplines on the University of Iowa campus," design partner Steven Holl, FAIA, said in a release. "The building is a place of inspiration for its students, faculty and visitors to encounter the joy of architecture."
The Visual Arts Building enters a dialogue with another educational project by Steven Holl Architects and BNIM on the adjacent edge of the same campus Quad. Art Building West, completed in 2006, features angular red steel forms that splay outward across landscape and cantilever over a small pond. Rod Kruse, FAIA, who is principal-in-charge at BNIM Des Moines, served as managing architect for Art Building West in collaboration with Steven Holl Architects, and led its post-flooding analysis, recovery, and deployment of flood mitigation strategies following the same precipitous 2008 event. Kruse continued that cooperation with Steven Holl Architects in leading the BNIM team on the new Visual Arts Building as its architect of record.
"This project has been an exemplar of collaboration in realizing a functional and exhilarating facility for the School of Art & Art History," Kruse said in a release. "This new facility is intended to lift the School to new levels of enrollment and success and will be a destination for students and professionals of art and architecture."
“We set out to make a studio art building for the future of the arts which are more and more interconnected," Chris McVoy, AIA, who is a senior partner at Steven Holl Architects, said in the release. "Light and movement permeate all the studios, opening up access and views for creative abrasion between all art making activities."