University of Iowa BioVentures Center / OPN Architects

© Wayne Johnson, Main Street Studio

Architect: OPN Architects
Location: Coralville, Iowa
Project Year: 2009
Engineer: KJWW Engineering Consultants
Photographs: Wayne Johnson, Main Street Studio 

The BioVentures Center is a new office and laboratory facility on the campus of the University of Iowa that functions as a collaborative environment and business incubator for biotech start-ups and the academic field.  The 80,000sf facility was designed by of Cedar Rapids, Iowa in conjunction with KJWW Engineering and Consultants.  In addition to traditional academic functions, half of the buildings usable area was designed as speculative lab space and is available for commercial lease.

According to the architect, the goal for the building was “to create a dynamic environment to foster a highly collaborative catalyst for innovation”.  This goal is reflected in the organization of the facility, which arranges the wet and dry lab modules in the east wing along a bi-level central corridor.  Speculative office space is found in the west wing of the plan and is connected to the lab modules with a variety of common spaces such as a daylit atrium, break room, lounge, and shared conference space.  These shared spaces not only provide breakout space for its students, but also provide necessary administrative meeting spaces for potential small businesses.

© Wayne Johnson, Main Street Studio

The BioVentures Center is one component of a larger R&D master plan that seeks to reinterpret the regional vernacular by taking cues from the agricultural heritage of the Midwest in scale, material, and various architectural elements.  The use traditional regional materials such as glass, Corten , and limestone is reminiscent of the Iowa vernacular is in response to the master plan, while the overall aesthetic remains true to the high-tech function of the space within.  The structure also employs some fairly interesting metaphors — one in particular would be the use of the continuous entrance portal that was designed to evoke the imagery of an open barn door.

© Wayne Johnson, Main Street Studio

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Cite: "University of Iowa BioVentures Center / OPN Architects" 27 Oct 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>