University of Iowa Art Building West
University of Iowa Art Building West

University of Iowa Art Building West

Iowa City, Iowa

68,340 GSF

Architect Stephen Holl sought inspiration from Pablo Picasso’s 1912 sculpture, Guitar (Museum of Modern Art, New York), for his design of the University of Iowa Art Building West. The concept is visible in the cantilevered wing—the instrument’s fretboard—and its curved east façade—the sound box.


  • The dynamic forms of the University of Iowa Art Building West engage users with nature. Specifically, a lagoon weaves natural elements into campus life.
  • All MEP systems were integrated into the structure, utilizing thickened precast core slabs for supply air distribution, fire suppression piping, electrical, lighting, and telecommunications.
  • Because most of the equipment was located at the basement level, below the water table, Alvine Engineering took special design precautions to ensure water tightness.
  • Sump pumps and strategically located collection points were identified and installed where leakage would likely occur.
  • Because of the building’s intricate layout, Alvine Engineering approached the design of MEP systems hands-on with the architect and design team. Doing so ensured the design standards meshed with the needs of the building and budget.

Photography credit: Christian Richters Photography

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