Steven Holl Architects’ Art Building West, which was damaged during a flood in June 2008, is the first University of Iowa arts facility to be renovated and reopened. The building, which was originally opened in 2006, was rededicated with a ceremony on May 3rd, 2012.
The arts building, which includes facilities for art history, digital design, drawing, sculpture, painting, administrative offices, a gallery, and a library, is an instrument of connection and generator of campus space, rather than an autonomous form. Engaging the edges of the reclaimed pond, the building creates new campus spaces, pathways and connections: a campus porosity. To the west, a double height reading room marks a new campus gateway and bracketed between the elevated arms, a sunny deck suspended over the water forms a gathering space. To the north, a serene urban wall of channel glass is set against open campus space. On Riverside Drive, situated in relation to a major path from the main campus, the building’s principal entrance occurs under the curving overhang of an auditorium. Internally, this path continues as a public route. Two levels of the library are pushed out into a cantilever keeping the building low and engaging the pond. The spaces within the building engage the landscape and become part of the campus. The resulting architecture is a hybrid vision of the future, combining bridge and loft spaces, theory with practice and human requirements with scientific principles.
Present at the rededication ceremony were John Beldon Scott, Director of the School of Art and Art History; Sally Mason, President of the University of Iowa; Linda Maxson, Dean of the College of Library Arts and Sciences; and Chris McVoy, Senior Partner of Steven Holl Architects.
Since its competition, Art Building West has been honored with numerous awards. In 2011, the building was named one of fourteen Best Global School Buildings by the BBC, and it has received a 2007 AIA Institute Honor Award, AIA Iowa Architecture Honor Award, AIA New York Chapter Architecture Merit Award, a RIBA International Award, and an American Architecture Award.
As part of the renovation and redevelopment of the flood-damaged University campus, Steven Holl Architects in collaboration with BNIM was also selected to design the new Visual Arts Building. The new facility will replace an original arts building from 1936, which was heavily damaged during the flood. The Visual Arts Building is scheduled to open in 2016.