Art-building construction goes vertical

BY MEGAN DEPPE | MARCH 03, 2014 5:00 AM

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Nearly six months after the groundbreaking ceremony, the University of Iowa begins to move vertically on the construction of the arts-building project.

The original 1936 Art Building, which had been situated between North Riverside Drive and the Iowa River, was heavily damaged in the 2008 floods. Contractors broke ground on the new facility at the end of September 2013.

Rod Lehnertz, the director of planning, design, and construction for UI Facilities Management, said crews have been focusing on site and foundation preparations for the past few months.

“We’ll see in these coming weeks the building start to move vertically,” Lehnertz said. “It’s going to be several months of constructional work.”

The project has also begun its construction of the eighth tower crane in Iowa City. It is the final crane to be used in flood recovery. The Iowa City City Council will hold a public hearing on March 4 to rezone the .54-acre property that will be used for the art facility.

Lehnertz also said the project remains “consistent” and nothing has changed from the original budget or schedule plan.

“It’s one of those important projects on our campus marking the permanent recovery from the 2008 flood,” Lehnertz said.

John Beldon Scott, the director of the School of Art and Art History, said the location of the temporary Studio Arts Building, which is more than three miles from campus, has been one of the major challenges since the flood.

The inconvenience and travel time have made difficulties for both student and faculty schedules,” Scott said. “Support staff are also divide between studio arts and art building west, making it sometimes cumbersome to address needs as quickly and effectively as we would like.”

Scott said he believed these stressors on the students and faculty of the UI would be greatly relieved with the opening of the new, on-campus building.

Steve McGuire, a UI professor of art and 3-D design, echoed Scott’s thoughts, noting that in the past decade, there have been more double-major art students and non-art majors taking art classes than ever before. This, along with transportation, often makes it difficult for students to get to class.

“The university has done an exemplary job in terms of the schedule, but it’s been a challenge,” McGuire said.

David Dunlap, a UI associate professor of art, compared the opening of the new arts facility to the opening of the temporary Studio Arts Building after the initial flood.

Dunlap said that when students and faculty were first moving their classes to Studio Arts— an old Menards — most were less than enthusiastic about the change.

“We were dreading it,” Dunlap said. “It sounded awful, this big sterile box, but it turned out to be really great.”

The similarities between the replacement building and the new arts building are what Dunlap looks forward to most when construction is finished. He said the walking distance between classrooms within the building was more reasonable, and there was more interaction within the college.

“I think it could be really great [with one building],” Dunlap said.

This idea was seconded by Scott, who also said that the new building will be inspiring and visually stimulating.

“The new visual-arts building promises to be a stunning work of avant-garde art,” Scott said. “It will be the best facility of its type in the country.”

McGuire also said that the building would be state-of-the-art.

“The facility will be second to none,” McGuire said. “I expect it will inspire the work that students do in it.”

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