UI will seek approval for innovation center at Board of Regents meeting next week

At next week’s Board of Regents meeting, the UI is hoping to get approval to build the campus’s first innovation center.


The old Art Building is seen on Sept. 3, 2018.

Aadit Tambe, News Reporter

If the University of Iowa’s plans come together, one old, empty university building will be repurposed for a space of innovation and collaboration.

The UI will seek permission from the state Board of Regents to convert the old Art Building into a new innovation center, which will bring students and faculty together to learn through experiments.

According to regents’ documents, the project would revitalize the 53,000-square-foot Art Building, modernizing the interior and restoring the exterior “while honoring the historic integrity of the building.” It would also eliminate some deferred maintenance and construct improvements to “support program needs, ADA and safe access.” New furniture and equipment for the site are also planned.

The estimated project budget of $20 to $25 million would be funded by gifts.

The UI had introduced Bruce Mau and his design consultancy, Massive Change Network, in November 2017 to spearhead plans for the new Innovation Center through a series of discussions.

Innovation centers aim to foster collaboration, innovation, and entrepreneurism among student thinkers. They provide an environment that promotes group projects with a goal to bring research to campuses.

The Art Building will once again become a space for students to feel inspired and collaborate, David Hensley, executive director of the John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, said in a statement.

“By bringing together inventors, creators, and leaders from a variety of backgrounds and skills, we will significantly enhance the university’s ability to support the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs,” he said.

Programming for the center is still under development and would be coordinated by Hensley and Tippie Dean Sarah Gardial, according to the UI statement.

“We will meet with deans, faculty members, and many other campus partners in the coming months to gather their ideas,” Gardial said in the statement. “We want to ensure the innovation center is a welcoming place for potential innovators and entrepreneurs from all across campus, students and faculty in every college and department, and from around the state of Iowa.”

Innovation centers are becoming increasingly popular in colleges across the United States. Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Iowa State University, University of Connecticut, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are among the first universities that have established innovation centers.

Officials intend for the innovation center to be unlike most other innovation centers at universities. They have suggested the Art Building embodies a place that would encourage innovative thinking, as it was originally built to bring creativity, art, and teaching together under one roof.

Once the building is restored, it will be home to innovation and advance the UI’s 170-year-old legacy of research, Professor of metal arts Steve McGuire, said in a statement.

The building will aim to bring back the Iowa Idea, an idea developed in 1936 to bring teaching of art history and art creation under one roof.

“The Iowa Idea will expand beyond the arts to encompass engineering, health care, the liberal arts, law, business, entrepreneurship, and other disciplines on campus,” he said.

The UI will request permission from the regents to proceed with project planning at the regents’ Sept. 12 Property and Facilities Committee meeting before the full board meets Sept. 13 in the IMU.

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