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Know your campus: Digging into UI architecture

BY ASHLEY HAUGO | MARCH 2, 2009 7:30 AM

What do a guitar, a computer punchcard, and an open book have in common?

For the careful observer, they can all be uncovered in the walls of UI buildings.

The most notable of this trio is the contemporary architecture of Art Building West (which is at present closed because of flooding last June). Striving to make this building for art a building of art, renowned architect Steven Holl modeled the structure after Pablo Picasso’s 1912 sculpture Guitar.

Indeed, with its fret board reaching out over Hutchinson Quarry Pond (yes, that little body of water does indeed have a name) and the soundbox resting near Riverside Drive, the uniqueness of this building resounds on campus. As construction for the new building was about to get underway in 2003, UI architect and project manager Rod Lehnertz said in a DI article, “This is going to be an architectural highlight on campus. It will be nationally recognized for its design.”

Not far from this, geometrical waves in the roofline of Hardin Library links function with feel. Poised on a slope that dips from the medical campus down to Newton Road, white skylights draw in sunlight and the stepped interior of the library makes visitors feel as if they are stepping into a book (an inspiration to hit those science books, maybe?).

Across the river, the former home of the Tippie College of Business, Phillips Hall, trades artistic inspiration for standardization and functionality of the Modernist design. Windows are set back from the external wall to help block out direct sunlight, but for some, the grid of these indentations brings to mind an antiquated computer punchcard. However, this interpretation seems to be more based on campus lore than a specific intention of the architect.


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