School of Art and Art History, Iowa

School of Art and Art History, University of Iowa

School of Art

Iowa School of Art and Art History is a characterful building expressed as planes of glass and deep red steel. The building is situated at the crossing of two orthogonal paths in the campus, at a place where the grid is interrupted by natural landscape in the form of a small lagoon and a limestone bluff. The building successfully negotiates this condition; smaller scale accommodation is in a long straight block which holds the grid to the north, while the studios, library and social spaces are more freely arranged in specific response to the water and the topography on the south side.

The building hugs the lake defining a new path which passes along the water’s edges, and at one point oversailing this path to sit like a raised pier in the lake. This engagement with the conditions and elements of the site is one of the scheme's most striking aspects. The long bar of the library hovers over the lake at first floor level; its reflection brings the space of the library down to the ground, making it part of the inside / outside experience. The new path and the bridge allow passers by to experience the interior and exterior forms and spaces without going inside.

A sense of open-ness and display is present throughout the building. Inside, the main stair provides views into the library and reading spaces as you move up to the studios. Glass walls between spaces offer views of the work. The studios can open onto flexible roof terraces in fine weather. Reflections from the lake outside bring the sense of the landscape into the interior. Prefabricated steel building principles, the most economical type of construction in America, are employed throughout the structure. The steel is expressed internally and externally; it creates an appropriate character and atmosphere for an art college. It feels like this would be a very good place in which to make and study art.


Top of page