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Art building construction powers forward

BY MICHAEL KADRIE | OCTOBER 01, 2014 5:00 AM

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Despite being two years from opening, the new studio-arts building is mere months away from a complete exterior.

The new facility on River Street will be the permanent home of the University of Iowa’s Metals, Ceramics, Sculpture, Printmaking, 3D Multimedia, and Photography Departments.

“When it’s completed it will probably be the best new studio-arts building built in the country in the last fifty years,” UI art Professor Steve McGuire said.

He said the facility is approximately 50 percent complete. That might not be immediately obvious to the casual observer, he said, because much of the finished work is in the ground.  The exterior should be finished by February 2015. 

Interior work on the building will continue until May 2016. 

McGuire said despite flooding this summer, the $77 million project is on schedule and on budget. However, the cold weather last winter did cause some minor challenges.

A big part of the future building will be the advanced equipment the School of Art is preparing to make available to staff and students, he said.

McGuire said the UI has been able to incorporate the experience of several other prototype programs across the nation in designing its spaces; computer numerical control machines will be an exciting part of the new building. 

That machining is a process in which computerized designs are used by the tools as guides in the construction and manipulation of materials.  Specific tools the UI will incorporate includes plasma and laser cutters.

McGuire said the windows, though they make the building “look like Swiss cheese” from above, allow for optimal lighting in workspaces. 

UI art graduate student Darcel Downing said that though she hasn’t been inside, she’s noticed this feature of the ongoing construction.

“I really enjoy the wonky windows,” she said.

A virtual-reality studio will be another addition to the new facility.  It will allow students to construct projects in a virtual environment without using potentially valuable materials.

UI senior art student Rachel Winter said she is most excited by the fulfillment of the Iowa Idea the new building promises, an initiative that brings studio arts and art history together.

“[Right] now, the Iowa Idea is a bit difficult because of geography,” she said.

UI President Walter Jessup and Graduate School Dean Carl Seashore first formulated the Iowa Idea in the 1920s.  This subsequently became the model for many arts programs across the nation.

“It’ll be good to have the communities of all the [arts] majors close together,” Downing said.

Downing and Winter said they wish the building could open sooner, but they remain excited about the potential it signifies.

“You can’t put a timeline on a building meant to engender excellence,” Winter said.


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