University of Iowa Voxman Music Building

Architect: LMN Architects

Associate Architect:  Neumann Monson Architects

Owner: University of Iowa

Location: Iowa City, Iowa

Award of Excellence

Immersed in the downtown core of Iowa City, the Voxman Music Building embraces a collaborative and exploratory student-driven model of education. The building shares musical discovery with the community through its transparent expression and composition of spaces. Conceptually, the pattern of streets and open spaces in this mixed-use urban district extends directly into the multi-level interior spaces, bringing vertical urban vitality and civic presence to the School of Music.

The six-story, 186,000-square-foot building lies at a key in downtown Iowa city, creating an entirely new relationship between academic and urban experiences. The program comprises a 700-seat concert hall, 200-seat recital hall, organ performance hall, music library, rehearsal rooms, practice rooms, classrooms, and faculty studios and offices all linked by a series of vertically connected community spaces.

The multi-story glazed corner entry reinforces the merger of campus and city, with the two primary performance venues marking their presence on each of the main facades at the second level. The concert hall cantilevers over the Burlington Street sidewalk and the below-grade student commons, while the recital hall protrudes from the building edge, wrapped in a shingled-glass wall system that extends over the sidewalk below.

The vertical stacking of acoustically sensitive spaces on a compact urban site presented a significant technical challenge. In response, each space is a discrete, acoustically isolated object with a sinuous, public space flowing between. These naturally lit circulation volumes interlink to form civic gathering areas, a student commons, a performance and rehearsal lobby, and three-story atrium. A fourth-floor terrace is nestled between the faculty offices, serving as a gathering space that frames views to the city, historic courthouse, and countryside beyond.  Inside, every performance and rehearsal space is acoustically tuned and tunable.

"The organization of performance, rehearsal, practice, and social spaces visually and functionally connect the school’s activities with the community beyond.  The innovative composition of forms and materials maximize daylight within an energy efficient building. " ~ Jury Statement

With the ability to adapt to a wide range of musical genres, from voice to percussion to classical to jazz, the building is designed for pedagogical flexibility, serendipitous collaboration, and impromptu performances.  The 700-seat Concert Hall’s design inspires performance and accommodates musical flexibility with a shoe-box arrangement framing a theatroacoustic system. This high-performance digital solution enhances the space by unifying acoustics, lighting, and life-safety requirements in a multi-functional architectural expression.

The intricately sculpted, suspended ceiling is assembled out of 946 unique, folded-aluminum composite modules digitally fabricated directly from the architect’s parametric model. Acoustic ray-tracing simulations performed directly in the architect’s 3D model informed the reflector’s curvilinear form, working iteratively with the acoustician to determine the optimal configuration of reflection and absorption of sound throughout the space.

In the 200-seat Recital Hall, deep red acoustical paneling optimizes the room’s sound while incorporating a wall-sized shingled-glass window to unite the performance event with the urban experience outside. In the three major rehearsal spaces, high ceilings are filled with swarms of colored, kite-like reflectors that vary between solid and perforated to animate acoustical and lighting effects.

Additional information

Acoustics & A/V: Jaffe Holden

CFD Modeling: Price Industries

Civil Engineer: Shive-Hattery

Commissioning: NV5 (previously Sebesta)

Construction Manager: Mortenson

Cost Estimator: Rider Levett Bucknall

Energy Analysis: The Weidt Group

Envelope Consultant: W.J. Higgins & Associates, Inc.

Fire Protection Analysis: Summit Companies

Graphic Designer: Pentagram

Landscape Architect: Confluence

Life Safety/Code: T.A. Kinsman Consulting

Lighting Designer: Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design

M/E/P Engineer: Design Engineers

Organ Designer: Orgelbau Klais Bonn

Structural Engineer: Magnusson Klemencic Associates

Theater Planner: Fisher Dachs Associates

Vertical Transportation: Lerch Bates


David Van Galen, AIA, (2018 Chair) Integrus Architects, Seattle

Linsey Graff, Assoc. AIA, Ayers Saint Gross, Tempe, Arizona

Wendy Rogers, FAIA, LPA, Inc., Irvine, California

Judy Hoskens, Assoc. AIA, REFP, Cuningham Group, Minneapolis

Image credits

University of Iowa Voxman Music Building

Tim Griffith

University of Iowa Voxman Music Building

Tim Griffith

University of Iowa Voxman Music Building

Tim Griffith

University of Iowa Voxman Music Building

LMN Architects