ISU Design West receives grant

By Katherine Klingseis,

Nestled in a remodeled boiler steam plant in the Fourth Street Historic District of Sioux City, ISU Design West aims to help students explore opportunities in art and design.

Sioux City received an Iowa Great Places grant in 2005. As a part of this grant, the city decided it needed a school of architecture.

“Sioux City is very rich in architecture, mostly from the prairie school and a little art deco,” said Associate Dean for Outreach at the College of Design Tim Borich. “The city was a real boomtown in the 1870s, 1880s and even into the 1890s, so a lot of the architecture came from that period.”

The city paired with Iowa State almost immediately after receiving the grant. Members from the Sioux City community worked with ISU leaders to pick an appropriate location for the school. When they first stumbled upon the old boiler steam plant, the building was in terrible condition and didn’t even have heat. To make the building suitable for a school, $1.5 million was invested to remodel the building.

“They used grant money and matching funds to design the building to have lecture space upstairs and classroom space downstairs,” said ISU Design West program coordinator Susan Fey. “They kept as much as they could of the building with the bricks and the wood and the different things from the building that made it unique, and also infused a certain modern classroom feel to it.”

After opening in 2007, ISU Design West has enabled students to work on projects in the Sioux City community. The school works with students interested in architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning, regional planning, graphic design and interior design. In the past, students have built three concrete cabins and a bus stop.

“A lot of current projects now are done through a [Partnering Landscape and Community Enhancement] application, which is an extension program,” Fey said. “Entries will send [their applications] to the College of Design and they will match up a studio with the project and how it fits in with the curriculum and sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, but we try to find a way for it to set up with the curriculum and have the students gain on-site, hands-on experience.”

ISU Design West recently received a $12,000 Access to Artistic Excellence Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The grant will be used to offer low or no cost programs for the community. Some of the money will be used to sponsor the studio’s high school outreach program, including the annual Sioux City by Design workshop.

“Everybody hears about architecture, and graphic design and landscape architecture, and even a few things like urban planning, but it’s not really part of the high school curriculum. This is a way for those students to spend a week at the Design West facility and explore the disciplines in a studio setting,” Borich said.

The money will also be used to help begin a middle school program and cover travel expenses for ISU students and faculty.

“I think it could be a real focal point for the future of Sioux City,” Borich said. “Think of this as sort of a think tank to explore ideas for the future of the city.”

(Originally posted on on June 22, 2010)

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