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Music can't wait for new home

BY ALISON CASSITY | JUNE 16, 2015 5:00 AM

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The School of Music growing at the corner of Burlington and Clinton Street is nearly halfway there.
Seven years after the flood of 2008 destroyed its facilities, the  UI School of Music is nearly a year away from moving into its new home near the heart of campus.

Construction of the new Voxman Music Building is roughly halfway complete, said Randy Clarahan, Mortenson Construction’s general manager of Iowa operations.

“[Voxman] is an extraordinarily challenging and complicated building,” Clarahan said. “We’re a little over 50 percent complete with the project. It may not look like it from the outside right now, but there’s a lot to be worked out.”

Officials aim to finish construction on the main building by July 2016 and have the space ready for students in time for the fall 2016 semester.

Planning for the project began in December 2011, and the building’s complex design has kept contractors busy since.

The new building will feature 150 acoustically sensitive spaces, such as practice rooms and recital halls, Clarahan said, and will include a 200-seat concert hall containing a one-of-a-kind German organ that must be custom-built on-site when the hall is complete.

He said construction on the building’s innovative warped glass façade is slated to begin in the next 30 days. Through this glass, the public will be able to look directly into the main recital hall.

Such a complex project is not without its challenges.

The exterior of the building will feature a new style of twisted terra cotta, Clarahan said, and samples of the exterior have been tested against the elements in Iowa City and Florida to ensure their durability.

“Finding all the good craft labor was a challenge because of all the new projects going on,” he said.

Several of the most recent and ongoing UI flood-recovery projects include the new Hancher Auditorium, a new art building, and the IMU ground floor.

Mortenson will begin planning for a new UI Museum of Art to be constructed across the street from Voxman in the next year, making the area into a cultural center.

“The city of Iowa City has a Riverfront Crossings District that they’re trying to promote, and this is the gateway to that,” Clarahan said.

Meanwhile, the Music School is ready to make its return to a centralized location on campus.

“We’re in seven locations right now, and in a highly collaborative discipline like music, that’s a real challenge,” said UI School of Music Director David Gier. “Our students and faculty have been incredibly resilient and positive and responded well to this challenge.”

Relocation from West Campus to downtown will give the school new life, he said.

“This building both physically and symbolically puts music right in the center of the action,” said Gier, who noted that the increased level of public engagement has been the “silver lining” of the flood’s effects.

Music faculty echoed Gier’s excitement for the unified environment the new building should bring.

“I’m excited to have all my colleagues and friends under the same roof and to be inspired by my colleagues every day,” music Professor Benjamin Coelho said.

Clarahan said the project is on track to be completed on schedule, and since the last tower crane came down last week, construction has been going smoothly.

“Credit goes to the faculty and staff that will have gone through eight years without a home,” he said. “They deserve a new home, and they’re going to get one.”


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