The University of Iowa for the School of Art & Art History, with Steven Holl Architects; also Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architects; Guy Nordenson and Associates; Alvine & Associates
photo by Andy Ryan
In the 1930s, the University of Iowa was one of the first schools to integrate art history and art prac¬tice within one department—an innovative approach that demanded an equally innovative design strategy for the new 70,000 sf building. The challenge was to integrate these two uses, and provide a welcoming gathering space for students and faculty.
The campus merges with the urban grid of Iowa City, which has the state capitol of 1842 as its symbolic center. The building served as an instrument of connection and generator of space, rather than an autonomous form. The building also relates to the quarry pond, flanked by a bluff of exposed limestone facing the existing art building.
Initially the design and construction services allocated a site across from the original building, but after six months of studies, the recommendation was to build adjacent to the lagoon, closer to the original school. The lawn area could be used for another academic building or as part of the landscape.
The interdisciplinary nature of the school is central to the design concept. As a space for arts education, it was essential that it represent an innovative and original design approach. The new school is open and responsive to its surroundings—the limestone bluffs, the pond, neighboring buildings.
“We are delighted with this building which is innovative and unique, spectacularly beautiful as well as functional and space and cost-effective,” says Dorothy Johnson, Director, School of Art and Art History.
The concept of a “formless” architecture of plans provided an intellectual framework so economical construction technologies could be used in inventive ways to realize a new kind of space for art education.
The jury said, “Architecturally the most beautiful building . . . strong statement about how the building relates to landscape . . .”
Project Team: The University of Iowa with Steven Holl Architects; also Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck Architects; Guy Nordenson and Associates; Alvine & Associates