The new Visual Arts Building for the University of Iowa's School of Art and Art History provides 126,000 sf of loft- like space for all visual arts media, from ancient metalsmithing techniques to the most advanced virtual reality technologies. The building replaces an original arts building from 1936, which was heavily damaged during the 2008 flood of the University of Iowa campus. The new building forms an Arts Quad with Art Building West, which was also designed by Steven Holl Architects and has drawn students from all over campus to its social spaces and library since opening in 2006. Together they form a visual arts campus for theorizing, teaching and making art.
The Visual Arts Building encourages maximum interaction between art disciplines through a central Forum and generous social spaces interconnected by multiple stairs. Seven vertical “centers of light” are carved out of the building’s volume filling the interior with natural light and ventilation. Their geometry shifts where one floor plate slides past another creating multiple balconies, outdoor meeting and informal working spaces, further encouraging interaction between the building’s five levels.
The building is a model for sustainable technologies, as the first building to integrate radiant floor heating and cooling within a bubble voided slab foundation (reducing the amount of concrete by 30%). Its façade is composed of a blue-green Rheinzink skin and fibonacci-proportioned windows. On the South elevations a perforated stainless steel veil floats in front to shade the interior during the day, and emit soft diffused light in the evening.