By Chris Curtland | Renderings courtesy of Steven Holl Architects
Notable for its ecological innovation and forward-thinking principles of interconnection and crossover, the University of Iowa’s Visual Arts Building recently celebrated its topping out, a builders' rite traditionally held when the last beam is placed atop a structure.
It’s slated to open in May 2016.
Replacing the original arts building from 1936, which was heavily damaged
during a flood in 2008, the site now sits two feet above the 500-year flood
line, the university notes. The facility will provide 126,000 square feet of
loft-like space for the departments of ceramics, sculpture, metals, photography,
printmaking, and 3D multimedia. It will also include studio, office, and gallery
space for faculty and graduate students.
Vertically porous and volumetrically composed, the building aims to allow
for maximum interaction between all departments. Glass partitions, open
floor plates, and stairways that form what the architectural team calls “social
condensers” facilitate communication and collaboration among occupants.
“Some stairs stop at generous landings with tables and chairs; others open
onto lounge spaces with sofas,” the design team explained.
A rectilinear volume is carved out for seven light courts, and these seven vertical
cutouts continue to encourage contact across all four levels. “The spaces of glass
are characterized by a language of shifted layers where one floor plate slides past
another,” noted Steven Holl Architects. “This geometry created multiple balconies,
providing outdoor meeting spaces and informal exterior working space.”
The building is heated and cooled by advanced “active slabs,” with
radiant tubing integrated in “bubble-deck” concrete floors—the first such
installation in the U.S. Each elevation is developed in a curtainwall to further
enhance energy performance. The facade also features sunshades on the
south and high-performance glass on the north. Operable windows enable
natural ventilation and at the same time deliver scenic campus views.
“The original grid of the campus breaks at the Iowa River, becoming
organic as it hits the limestone bluff,” explained Steven Holl Architects. “The
new building picks up the campus grid again in its simple plan, defining the
new campus space of the ‘arts meadow.’”
THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA
VISUAL ARTS BUILDING
BY STEVEN HOLL ARCHITECTS