No stranger to the University of Iowa campus, architect Steven Holl’s new Visual Arts Building provides 126,000 square-feet of loft-like space within a beautifully crafted envelope. The building replaces an original arts building from 1936 that was heavily damaged during a flood of the University campus in Iowa City.

Steven Holl Architects first venture on campus was the Art Building West, completed in 2006 and located adjacent to the new Visual Arts Building.  Although dramatically different in design and materials, the two buildings are complementary, according to Holl.

Now home to the departments of ceramics, sculpture, metals, photography, print making and 3D multimedia, the new Visual Arts Building presents an industrial aesthetic with RHEINZINK-clad, poured-in-place concrete walls. The southwestern and southeastern elevations—which overlook Holl’s earlier building and where the main entrances are located—are covered in perforated stainless-steel panels that rest 7 inches from the RHEINZINK cladding.

The RHEINZINK panels, as well as the stainless steel panels, were custom designed, engineered and fabricated by POHL Group, headquartered in Cologne, Germany. POHL’s office in the United State is located in West valley City, Utah. POHL is a RHEINZINK systems partner.

Approximately 38,000 square-feet of prePATINA blue-grey RHEINZINK were fabricated in Germany and shipped ready-to-install to the U.S. The 1.5mm RHEINZINK rainscreen system was created specifically for the design. Steven Holl Architects came to POHL with the challenge, said Thorsten Evenkamp, vice president/head of sales. “We invested a tremendous amount of engineering effort in the design of the custom zinc and stainless steel systems,” according to Evenkamp.  

The perforated stainless steel panels bring natural light deep into the building through a series of scooped setbacks. “At the same time, the horizontal RHEINZINK panels have the effect of unifying the diverse building structure,” Evenkamp said. “There was no caulking involved with the rainscreen system. In terms of durability and sustainability, it’s really state-of-the art. We love working with natural metals and this project is truly a landmark building. We’re pleased and proud to have been involved.”

Steven Holl and senior partner Chris McVoy led the design team. According to Holl, “We did over 30 design schemes. It was a very long process, but we were very dedicated to finding the right fit. I’m very, very proud of the results. It’s a very economical building, which was another big challenge.”

Installation of the RHEINZINK panels was done by Architectural Wall Systems (AWS), Des Moines. AWS did the entire exterior envelope and has considerable experience working with POHL profiles. “This type of large, custom job designed by a world-class architect is really our strong suit,” according to Sam Arnold, project manager. “The panels came to us prefabricated from Germany. Our goal was to minimize field fabrication and to allow our installers to have everything they needed on-site to complete the installation as efficiently as possible.”

Arnold reports there were 13,000 holes in a specific pattern in each of the stainless steel perforated panels that were continuous with punched windows across the south and west elevations. The RHEINZINK panels have returns into all of the windows. POHL also fabricated curved RHEINZINK panels that were utilized on the building’s vegetative roof to clad large skylights.

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