Voxman Music Building
Architect: LMN Architects
Owner: University of Iowa
Location: Iowa City, Iowa
In 2008, severe flooding damaged the University of Iowa School of Music, leaving its students adrift with no home on campus and no space for practice and performances. This new, six-story, 184,000-square-foot building relocates the school from the banks of the Iowa River to a vital intersection in downtown Iowa City. Where city meets campus, this project has created a new relationship at the intersection of academic and urban experiences.
The team designed the new building for flexible pedagogy, collaboration, and spontaneous performances. Its naturally lit circulation volumes unite to form a three-story lobby atrium that houses a robust gathering area, student commons, and a performance and rehearsal lobby. The new building’s dedicated performance spaces include a 700-seat concert hall, a 200-seat recital hall, and supporting spaces such as rehearsal rooms, classrooms, and private studios. Extensive glazing allows for connections with Iowa City and the communities surrounding it, and a fourth-floor terrace frames views of the city and countryside.
A number of innovative systems help elevate the building to its status as a high-profile performance facility and community asset. A façade of four different styles of dove grey terracotta titles reference the composition of the internal spaces while providing sunshading. The concrete structure creates acoustic separation between spaces, and felt acoustic fins inserted into slots in the concrete help soften the acoustic and visual texture in public areas.
In the concert hall, a sculpted theatro-acoustic ceiling element unites acoustics, lighting, and life-safety requirements. The system was developed in a collaborative parametric environment and provides a bespoke but economical solution for the hall. Deep red acoustical paneling in the recital hall is visible from the exterior, providing visual interest while optimizing the sound environment there. In a number of rehearsal spaces, adjustable colorful reflectors that soar like kites can be tweaked to meet a wide range of acoustic needs.
The project meets a number of university goals, including supporting the next wave of musicians and their faculty. Perhaps most important, the new building fosters a sense of community, while its technological and acoustical improvements spur the development of innovative work.
"Project finds form in the acoustics rather than finding acoustics in the form: a rare and wonderful achievement. Great innovation in the materials and sound mitigation strategies such as the concrete and felt detail. The project should be commended for creating a reason for a chromatic palette that relates to music but is not slavish to it." - Jury comment