The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Visual Arts Building ranked among best by Architectural Digest

David C. Harmantas
The Visual Arts Building at the University of Iowa. In 2018, this building was listed by Architectural Digest Magazine as one of the top new universtiy structures in the world. Mar. 19, 2018. (David Harmantas/The Daily Iowan)

With a rainbow glistening on the University of Iowa Visual Arts Building’s metallic surface, the unique design has caught significant attention since its addition to campus in 2016.

The building was recently listed among nine others as one of the top new university structures by magazine Architectural Digest, along with educational spaces from Rice University, Cornell Tech, and the University of Bergen in Norway.

Located on River Street, the structure opened at the university in 2016 to replace the old Art Building after the damage sustained in the 2008 flood. Designed by Steven Holl Architects in New York City and BNIM Architects in Des Moines, more than 126,000 square feet of land is occupied to provide a home for art students and faculty.

Wendy Moorehead, the strategic communications manager for UI Facilities Management, said she was thrilled to hear about the building’s achievement.

“A team of architects, consultants, and contractors created this visually stunning and technologically advanced building for the benefit of visual arts students for years to come,” Moorehead wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “The geometry and volume of space in the building, as well as the penetration of direct sunlight to interior spaces make this one of the truly outstanding learning environments on our campus.”

Steve McGuire, the director of the School of Art and Art History, said this was a warranted acknowledgement for the building.

“The building does deserve the honor because it is aesthetically stunning,” McGuire said. “You really can’t imagine a building doing this, but the building itself has inspired work of art related to the building. When you’re an artist, you really are motivated from the art around you. You get this brilliant natural art coming in, and you can see your peers making it as well.”

Outside of its exterior, McGuire credited the Visual Arts Building as a productive workplace for art students.

“For visual art, you really need natural light,” he said. “The way light is brought into the building is almost ingenious.”

UI sophomore Casey Gartlan, who frequently takes classes in the Visual Arts Building, said she appreciates its design compared to other buildings on campus.

“I feel like the architecture, especially the interior, is unique to the University of Iowa and adds a personality to campus, rather than simply being another boring lecture building,” Gartlan said.

On the contrary, Hunter Creel, a M.F.A. candidate in sculpture, said the building did not deserve the recognition because of its difficult workspace.

“I think the building is set up very nicely for people who make images,” Creel said. “Someone like me, who uses large material, looking for places to spread out and work does not turn out well. There’s literally no storage in the building. For as large as the building is, the space that’s usable is very small in comparison.”

In the future, Creel said he hopes there will be renovations to accommodate for all types of artists.

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About the Contributor
Sarah Stortz
Sarah Stortz, Arts Editor
Twitter: @sstortz_
Sarah Stortz is an Arts Editor at The Daily Iowan. She has been on staff since her freshman year, previously as a news reporter, digital producer, and arts reporter. She is a senior at the University of Iowa, studying journalism & mass communication with a certificate in nonprofit management and a minor in theatre arts.