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Iowa’s newest centre for the visual arts is itself a work of art, albeit an abstract one, with the blocky segmentation of a Nicolas de Staël painting – a playful composition of volumes interspersed with swoops and curves that belies the building’s incredible functionality. Steven Holl Architects included seven “centres of light” via vertical canyons that bring sun deep into the structure.

Interiors are similarly porous, with spaces devoted variously to individual creativity or collaboration and camaraderie. The private artists’ studios include glass partitions that allow students to see what their peers are doing, while the floor plates incorporate massive apertures that give way to gracious, light-filled atriums.

Projects: Visual Arts Building, University of Iowa

Location: Iowa City, U.S.

Firm: Steven Holl Architects, U.S.

Team: Rychiee Espinosa, Steven Holl and Chris McVoy with Garrick Ambrose, Christiane Deptolla, JongSeo Lee, Johanna Muszbek, Garrett Ricciardi, Christopher Rotman, Filipe Taboada, Christina Yessios, Bell Ying Yi Cai and Yiqing Zhao

Visual Arts Building, University of Iowa
This year's AZ Awards of Merit in the category of Architecture over 1,000M² went to bold and inspiring large-scale projects in five different countries.

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Maki & Associates and Moriyama & Teshima Architects
People’s ChoiceBuildings Over 1,000SqM
Ras, India
Sanjay Puri Architects, India
WinnerBuildings Over 1,000SqM
Villanueva de la Serena, Spain
Pancorbo + de Villar + Chacón + Martin Robles, Madrid