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Familiar architect to design Art School

BY JORDAN FRIES | FEBRUARY 24, 2010 7:30 AM

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University of Iowa officials are bringing in a familiar face to co-design a new building for the School of Art and Art History.

Architect Rod Kruse, who is with the Des Moines branch of BNIM, will work with Steven Holl Architects of New York to make a blueprint to replace the old building, which was constructed in 1936 and damaged irreparably by the flood of 2008.

“Our vision for this project is for it to be distinctly different from the previous Art Building but also compatible with the rest of the Arts Campus,” Kruse said.

The design concept is focused on “vertical porosity,” which will allow light to penetrate the building’s expected three levels, unlike the last building, he said.

“We want to stimulate the visitor, the student, and the artist with this design,” Kruse said. “We want all to feel like they are standing in a piece of modern art.”

Kruse, who has worked with three architectural firms in more than 30 years of service, said he has always enjoyed projects at the UI.

Among the nearly 10 projects, he designed the Blank Honors Center and the Karro Building, which houses the UI Athletics Hall of Fame.

Kruse, who said the university has always been “a great client,” has also contributed to the renovation of Schaeffer Hall and helped produce a design to convert the Field House into a recreational facility.

One of roughly 25 applicants for the project, Kruse hopes to begin an initial design in the next 30 days, though construction bids won’t be due until May 2012 and the building likely won’t be finished until 2014.

Potential sites for the UI’s first flood-recovery replacement facility include an area north of Art Building West, which Kruse designed in 2006.

The new building is projected to be 115,000 square feet, roughly the same as the previous establishment, and it will house studios, classrooms, offices, and gallery space.

Officials have yet to put a price tag on the new building, but they expect the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover 90 percent of the total and for the UI to pay for the rest.

UI Facilities Management architect Beverly Robalino, a member of the committee that picked the design team, said panel members are still in the process of determining costs, FEMA regulations, and university codes.

Though the building’s location is also in limbo, potential sites must be at least 2 feet above the 500-year flood plain of the Iowa River.

Many of the UI’s art students are excited about the possibility of having a facility on campus they can truly call their own, even with the distant completion date.

“I wish we had an art building on campus right now, because it would take a lot of stress off my day,” said UI freshman Lily Allen-Duenas. “My schedule would be more balanced, and I could spend more time on my art and less on getting to the actual building.”


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