Art Building West to open spring 2012


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Art students will soon pack up their supplies, say goodbye to Seashore Hall, and head for a refurbished venue.

University of Iowa officials say construction and renovation on Art Building West is nearly completed — it will be finished this month, making it the first major flood-damaged building to completely reopen.

The building will be open for classes by the start of the 2012 spring semester, said Rod Lehnertz, the UI Facilities Management director of planning, design, and construction.

In an interview with The Daily Iowan earlier this fall UI President Sally Mason hinted at the building's completion.

"The building itself is starting to really look as beautiful as it did before the flood," she said. "It's been a long time coming."

Dean Dykstra, a Facilities Management construction project manager, said the project cost roughly $11 million. The construction cost $8 million — $2 million of which went toward constructing an "invisible" flood wall — and $3 million was spent on decorations and administrative equipment.


The invisible wall is a wall of panels that can be quickly constructed to keep out floodwater and then taken down.

McComas-LacinaConstruction began renovating the building in September 2010. Throughout the construction period, art classes were spread out around campus, many of them to Van Allen Hall and many studio classes in a temporary building on Highway 1 West.

Other major flood-recovery projects include the Art Building, new Hancher, new music facility, the IMU, Mayflower, and the Theatre Building.

The Theatre Building is the next project slated for substantial renovation in August 2013, according to the Sept. 20 state Board of Regents packet.

Lehnertz said the Art West project has been a two-step process: returning the building to its original state and constructing the removable flood barrier.

"Should we be threatened by another type of 2008 flood, we'd be able to assemble the wall that would surround the entire site," Lehnertz said. "[A permanent wall] would have negatively affected the original structure of the design."

Many projects that receive support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are required to have permanent flood-prevention systems, but federal officials granted this project an exemption because it's considered a historical site.

Lehnertz said a permanent wall would have defaced the architecture.

"That allowed us to do some special things to protect the specific architecture," he said.

Typically, sites are considered historically eligible after about 50 years, but Art Building West had only been standing for two years when the flood hit.

Steven Holl, the architect of the building, said he's very proud of the recognition.

"The quality of the architecture is not only receiving awards several years after it opened, but it's also making the building already a kind of landmark," he said.

UI officials said maintaining the original architecture of the building was a priority.

"The architecture has not changed," Lehnertz said. "It's primarily just as it was the day before the flood."

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