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A Homecoming for Holl
Steven Holl Architects to build again at flood-damaged Iowa U.
A porous design for the structure vertically connects interior spaces, while also linking to the landscape.

The 2008 flood of the Iowa River heavily damaged the campus of the University of Iowa, including the school’s art building, which dates from 1936. When campus officials decided not to reoccupy the flood-prone building, they turned to Steven Holl Architects (SHA), the designers of a successful 2006 arts expansion building known as the Art Building West.

“It’s exciting for us to make a new building next to one of the campus buildings we’re most proud of,” said Chris McVoy, senior designer with SHA. “We’ll also get to shape a piece of the campus between the two buildings. The space shaped by the building is as important as the building itself.”

Before settling on SHA, the university also considered Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Carlos Jimenez, and Polshek Partnership.

Funded primary through FEMA recovery money, the new 110,000-square-foot building will include a variety of studios and foundries as well as classroom spaces. The department includes both art history and studio art curriculum, which, in the 2006 project, the architects tried to integrate though a “porous design,” according to McVoy, with interconnected spaces as well as connections to the landscape. A large section of the building is cantilevered over a lagoon.

The new design will include a campus connection to Holl's successful Art Building West, completed in 2006.
Andy Ryan

In the new building, SHA also plans to use a porous strategy, but where that is experienced horizontally in the planar 2006 building, they want the porosity to read vertically in the new project. This could be achieved through skylights or atrium spaces cutting between floors. “It will be complementary but contrasting,” McVoy said. “Each project is a new beginning.”

Alan G. Brake