The University of Iowa

Every room matters when it comes to giving the University of Iowa’s School of Music students and faculty what they need to be successful. This was the overarching theme in the design of the new Voxman Music Building in downtown Iowa City.

“There are very few rooms where you just worry about a simple wall,” said Jason McKane, Mortenson Construction project manager, which is completing the $152 million three-year project. The Gazette got a sneak peek of how the construction has been going on May 26.

Behind the walls

Mortenson has designed other acoustically minded buildings, including Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, McKane said. But he said the new Voxman building, at 96 E. Burlington St., is unique in that no two rooms in the building are alike.

A wall in a regular building typically would require just one layer of Sheetrock, but rooms in Voxman required many more layers to create the acoustic atmosphere needed. A typical acoustic room in the building required three layers of Sheetrock, a metal stud wall, air space, another metal stud wall and three more layers of Sheetrock for construction, McKane said.

What you’ll see

From individual rehearsal rooms to a 700-seat concert hall, the six-level glass exterior Voxman was created to suit the needs of its students, faculty and staff.

The new building highlights a 700-seat concert hall, a 200-seat recital hall, an organ performance hall, a student common area and a music library, among many other features. But most of the intricate details that make the features functional will never be seen by the public when the building opens in August.

Upon walking into the main entrance, a grand staircase is straight ahead, leading to a second floor to the student commons and concert hall.

The main entrance is lighted by the large glass exterior facing Burlington Street that allows light to stream, making the building “livable,” said David Gier, director of the School of Music.

Intricate details

The large concert hall will be the last piece of the building finished because an organ from Germany requires a 180-day installation process. It now is more than halfway completed, Gier said.

The ceiling in the hall is curved, and has intricate cutouts much like a paper snowflake — all of which help provide the musicians and audience with the best acoustic experience.

A few rooms, including the large rehearsal hall, have what looks like multi-piece artwork hanging from the ceiling. It is called an “acoustic swarm” and is built to reflect sound coming from the musicians.

The gold pieces in the rehearsal room add a splash of color to the white design that makes the room feel big and open, much like the rest of the building.

The seating was not yet in for the small recital room, but red, texturized acoustical panels line two of the walls and the ceiling. The room is showcased with an enormous window facing Burlington Street, so people will be drawn to look in from the street, Gier said — a major goal of the design.

The new spaces “will allow for more easy collaboration,” Gier said.

The box-within-a-box design will help the musicians with their performance skills, but also serves as a tool for hearing safety, Gier said.

New culture

The new building “will help attract top students and faculty,” said Nic Arp, director of strategic communications for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “It’s wonderful how much support the School of Music has gotten from the university and the community in general.”

The University of Iowa has a long history of being an innovator in the arts and the new Voxman building is just another example of it, Arp said.

“This is an incredible symbolic commitment to the arts by the university,” Gier said of the building, which he thinks will become a landmark of Iowa City because of its location downtown.

Nancy Bird, executive director of the Iowa City Downtown District, said the building’s size and location make it a magnet for arts and culture.

“It’s a nod to sustainability, it’s a nod to ensure downtown stays strong,” Bird said.

Since the 2008 flood rendered the old building unusable, the School of Music has been housed in as many as 18 locations across campus and currently is in nine locations. While the interim locations have worked temporarily, the new site will allow students much greater learning opportunities.

“It’s like doing chemistry in your kitchen — you can do it, but it’s not the same as a laboratory,” Gier said.

The School of Music invites the public to attend the ribbon cutting and open house ceremony 4 p.m., Oct. 21, in the Recital Hall.

The department hosts 350 public events each year.

Publication Source: 
Cedar Rapids Gazette