Two short years after Steven Holl completed his groundbreaking Art Building West at the University of Iowa, the adjacent 1930’s structure, housing student studio space, was irreparably damaged by flooding. His firm was invited back, this time to design a visual-arts facility that would suit young artists, who tend to work in a collaborative manner across disciplines. “Art schools today consider that the architecture of the school itself—inspiring light, space, and proportions— can be a catalyst for programs of educational excellence,” Holl says.
He devised a solution at once hardworking and elegant, weighty and ethereal. Sited 1 foot above the floodplain, at the lip of a limestone bluff, the five-story, 126,000-square-foot building is a simple square in plan, however each floor plate shifts slightly to break down the massing. Strategic cutaways allow infiltration of natural light and ventilation through operable windows and balconies. (There’s also a roof deck for those needing a breather.) Clad with panels of zinc and perforated stainless steel, the concrete structure is exposed inside, where it backdrops a gallery-esque array of student art. With the building’s bones so clearly on display, architecture and interior merge—a fitting metaphor for a highly interdisciplinary approach to art-making.
Project Team: Chris McVoy; Rychiee Espinosa; Johanna Muszbek; Jongseo Lee; Filipe Tabaoda; Christina Yessios; Christiane Deptolla; Garrett Ricciardi; Bell Ying Yi Cai; Garrick Ambrose.