Steven Holl Architects’ Visual Arts Building at the University of Iowa Starts Construction

The new Visual Arts Building at the University of Iowa celebrates the beginning of construction today. Designed by Steven Holl Architects in collaboration with BNIM, the new facility for the University of Iowa’s School of Art and Art History will provide 126,000 sf of loft-like space for the departments of ceramics, sculpture, metals, photography, print making, and 3D multimedia. It will also include graduate student studios, faculty and staff studios and offices, and gallery space.

The new Visual Arts Building relocates and expands educational space from the original 1936 arts building, which was heavily damaged during a flood of the University of Iowa campus in June 2008. The new building will be located directly adjacent to and northwest of Art Building West, which was designed by Steven Holl Architects and has received numerous awards since its opening in 2006.

While the 2006 Arts Building West is horizontally porous and of planar composition, the new building will be vertically porous and volumetrically composed. Natural light and ventilation are inserted into the deep floor plates via multiple centers of light.

The aim of maximum interaction between all departments of the school takes shape in social circulation spaces. Seven vertical cutouts encourage interaction between all four levels. These light courts are characterized by a language of shifted layers where one floor plate slides past another. This geometry creates multiple balconies, providing outdoor meeting spaces and informal exterior working space. Interior stairs stop at generous landings with tables and chairs, and lounge spaces with sofas.

Steven Holl said, “We are very pleased to be able to work again with the University of Iowa towards the creation of campus space as well as an inspiring new facility for the arts.”

Chris McVoy added, “We are excited to begin construction on this ambitious studio arts building, which offers the rare circumstance to realize a complementary architecture and shape campus space with one of our favorite built works, the 2006 Art Building West. The new building is dedicated to space for the ever-evolving practice of art within and across different disciplines, from foundry to digital media, all connected by porous social spaces and light courts.”

The project, led by Steven Holl and Chris McVoy, is scheduled to open in 2016.

Steven Holl Architects and BNIM were selected as the winning team to design the new Visual Arts Building in a competition organized by the University in 2010.

The LEED Gold building includes an accessible green roof, and integrates active slab heating and cooling into the exposed loft-like concrete bubble deck structure.