Iowa State University Student Innovation Center / Kieran Timberlake
Text description provided by the architects. Originally designated as a dedicated engineering center, KieranTimberlake was working with university stakeholders to reprogram the project as a multi-use, cross-departmental resource facilitating the curricular needs of the next generation of design leaders, builders and entrepreneurs. Similar to KieranTimberlake’s rigorous research methods, the university and company conducted studies of each academic department on campus to compile a list of the facility’s key features and functions. The research result provided a mandate for KieranTimberlake to blend flexible spaces with static programming, where students from different disciplines and backgrounds can investigate, socialize, collaborate and create.
The five-story facility is unique in its size and scope to the university and has a prominent curtain wall of glass panels that undulate from flat panels to a chevron pattern, increasingly protruding outward. Facade movement and reflective pattern continually wrap across most of the exterior walls, reflecting the agricultural history surrounding the campus, including the historic Marston Water Tower, while framing the corners of the fragmented open sky.
As with many aspects of projects designed by KieranTimberlake, the interface does more than just spark curiosity in terms of indoor activities. Early on, the company leveraged the diverse skill set of its in-house research group to simulate design iterations in the pace of the process. The simulations considered assembly, software distribution, and facade geometry to optimize the building for passive rejection of solar heat gain without the use of shades, and to reduce energy consumption by one-third that of a similar core building.
Within the 146,000-square-foot structure, flexible, loft-like, floor-plan spaces support a modern educational approach that emphasizes interdisciplinary investigation through experimentation, pro-writing, and fabrication. While some spaces were built openly and raw for future programming development based on the changing needs of the school and community, the use of concrete throughout was not merely a nod to modernity or “sharpness” in its rough aesthetics but served the dual purpose of providing a secure envelope for the manufacturing spaces used For sharpening materials such as wood, metal, plastic, glass, textiles, composites, and electronics. The center’s generous floor plan also includes 13 meeting rooms, a café, a step-a-torium gallery (also referred to as the central staircase), and co-working and event spaces.