Construction view of the Visual Arts Building

Visual Arts Building Construction

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The University of Iowa Visual Arts Building, designed by Steven Holl Architects, New York, and BNIM Architects, Des Moines, and constructed by Miron Construction, Cedar Rapids, opened in the fall of 2016 as a replacement for the flood-damaged 1935 Art Building. The building is 126,000 square feet of studios and classrooms.

The structure is a punched concrete frame. It is one of the first buildings in the Western Hemisphere to use a voided concrete slab. 67 miles of in-slab PEX tubing and 22,000 gallons of coolant provide heating and cooling for the building.   

Many of the complex shapes in the building required creative masterworks in form-construction and new techniques to shape the concrete according to plan.

Chris McVoy of Steven Holl Architects talks about the construction and design of the Visual Arts Building while under construction.

Cobiax "bubbles" and PEX tubing
Cobiax voids embedded in the slabs allow greater spans with fewer columns and greater flexibility in design. In-slab PEX tubing (white) carries heating and cooling throughout the building.

Workers pour concrete of PEX tubing and Cobiax "bubbles"
Workers pour concrete over Cobiax "bubbles" and PEX tubing to create the light-weight slab.

Complex forms for railings
Complex wooden forms shape the cast-in-place concrete railings of the Visual Arts Building.

hidden infrastructure of the Visual Arts Building
A small portion of the hidden infrastructure needed to make the Visual Arts Building operate.

Computer-operated punch making the perforated stainless steel sunscreen panels for the southwest and sourtheast facades of the Visual Arts Building. Other cutting methods would have thermally deformed the panels. Many of the panels required the layout to be hand-adjust by the architects due to the many unique shapes of the panels.

Three years of construction compressed into two minutes in this Visual Arts Building construction time-lapse.