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Architect named for new University of Iowa Museum of Art

Renders expected in late spring or summer

Two rooms of the University of Iowa Museum of Art gallery at the IMU are shown on Friday, December, 20, 2013 in Iowa City, Iowa. Since the Flood of 2008 the museum has held exhibitions in a variety of locations, attracting 146,470 visitors over the 2012-13 school year. (Adam Wesley/Gazette-KCRG TV9)
Two rooms of the University of Iowa Museum of Art gallery at the IMU are shown on Friday, December, 20, 2013 in Iowa City, Iowa. Since the Flood of 2008 the museum has held exhibitions in a variety of locations, attracting 146,470 visitors over the 2012-13 school year. (Adam Wesley/Gazette-KCRG TV9)
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IOWA CITY — A highly-anticipated permanent replacement for the University of Iowa’s flood-devastated Museum of Art building now has an architect on board.

Project developer H+H Development Group of Iowa City has identified BNIM Architects of Des Moines and Kansas City as “architect of record” for the new museum, the university announced Monday.

The firm was chosen, in part, for its “wide range of notable projects, both nationally and internationally,” according to Rod Lehnertz, interim vice president of finance and operations and director of planning, design, and construction for UI Facilities Management.

Conceptual renderings of the estimated 60,000-square-foot project are expected in late spring or summer, UI officials said. Further details about a contract with BNIM were not made public Monday, including how much the firm will be paid.

The news moves the long-awaited facility closer to reality, nearly seven years after its former home on Riverside Drive was deluged by the Flood of 2008. The UI removed its collections hours before water inundated the old building, but the site was deemed unsuitable for artwork going forward.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency denied funds to build a new museum away from the river, forcing officials to explore a public-private partnership for the project. And in October, the university announced H+H Development Group of Iowa City will work with M.A. Mortenson Co., of Minneapolis, on the project,

That partnership will place the museum on privately-owned land at the southeast corner of Burlington and Clinton streets, near the heart of downtown Iowa City and across from the new Voxman Music Building, also being replaced following the flood.

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UI administrators are eager to develop a permanent home for the museum, as it has existed in nomadic form since suffering millions in flood damage. The museum and its staff have managed to maintain — and even increase — visits and views through temporary locations and outreach exhibits.

Last year it shattered attendance records, thanks largely to a Jackson Pollock “Mural” exhibition at the Getty in Los Angeles. The UI Museum of Art drew 538,260 people to its events and exhibits in the 2013-14 school year, topping the previous high of 146,470 participants by 391,790.

UI Museum of Art Director Sean O’Harrow said he’s looking forward to working over the next few years with BNIM, which has created “first-rate buildings” across the country. Such projects include the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, the Kaufmann Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, and Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts.

According to its website, BNIM aims to “elevate human potential, greatly reduce environmental impact, and produce rather than consume economic resources through productivity gains and increased effectiveness.”

UI interim vice president Lehnertz said a team of consultants will work with BNIM, focusing on “ensuring the unique technical needs of the museum are met while also creating a visual statement fitting of our noted museum collection.”

The UI Museum of Art was established in 1969 and has become “one of the leading university art museums in the world,” according to UI officials. Its 14,000-some works of art and programming encompass a variety of areas, including 20th century American and European paintings, sub-Saharan African Art, pre-Columbian sculpture, Native American art, ancient Chinese sculpture and ceramics, and 20th century American and European studio ceramics.

UI officials called the museum among the most popular and effective public institutions in the state and nation, and Lehnertz said BNIM has a reputation to match.

“Our confidence also stems from the connections BNIM has with the state of Iowa and the University of Iowa,” he said.

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