Tim Griffith.

2018 WAN Awards Winner spotlight: The Voxman Music Building

Jo Smit
30 Apr 2019

The University of Iowa’s Voxman Music Building is a window onto musical performance, its glazed elevations engaging its local community with its purpose. The design by Seattle based LMN Architects won the Education Buildings Award in the World Architecture News Awards 2018, and much praise from the WAN Awards judges, who described it as “simply superb”.

The six-storey building is located between the university campus and the downtown core of Iowa City, so embraces both academic and urban environments. It houses a 700-seat concert hall, 200-seat recital hall, an organ performance hall, a music library, rehearsal rooms, practice rooms, classrooms, and faculty studios and offices, and has been designed to be as transparent as possible.

The building’s multi-storey glazed corner entrance connects the internal spaces to the campus and city, with the two major performance venues marking their presence on each of the main facades. Between the performance spaces, porous, day-lit circulation volumes interlink to form the student common areas, performance and rehearsal lobby, and a three-story atrium. A fourth floor exterior terrace, behind and between the wings of the rear facade, serves as a gathering space that frames views to the city's historic courthouse and the countryside beyond.

The exterior of the building is wrapped in textured and reflective terracotta panels and low-iron glass. The variety of the terracotta panel system is created using only two modules with two different combinations of finishes and textures. A twisted terracotta panel is used as part of the sun shading system.

For the architect, the urban site presented complexities. “Vertically stacking high-quality acoustically sensitive spaces on top of one another is a major technical challenge,” said Stephen Van Dyck, project designer with LMN Architects. “We conceived the design as a functional response to these conditions where each space is a discrete object with a dynamic, sinuous public space between them.”

A high-performance architectural system was developed to meet the requirements of the concert hall, which unifies acoustics, lighting and life-safety requirements into a single dramatic, multi-functional architectural expression. The resulting intricately sculpted element is assembled from 946 folded-aluminium composite modules, which were digitally fabricated from a parametric model.

The 200-seat recital hall is wrapped in red-coloured acoustic material and features a large glass wall, stage right, which reveals the city and floods the stage with natural light.

The Voxman Music Building is one of a number of top international buildings recognised in the World Architecture News Awards 2018.

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