Iowa State Center courtyard to be renovated

Rachel Sinn

The renovation of the Iowa State Center courtyard is meant to be a renewal as opposed to a new invention, said Joe Hibbard of Sasaki Associates of Watertown, Mass., on Wednesday, Sept. 19. 

The Iowa Board of Regents approved a $2.55 million project budget at a June 6 meeting to renovate the Iowa State Center courtyard.

“We are three-quarters of the way completed [with the design process],” Hibbard said. 

Designs are for the walkways and courtyard spaces near Hilton Coliseum, Stephens Auditorium and Fisher Theater. The renewal will improve the appearance and overall usefulness of the space. 

Hibbard cites issues regarding pedestrian circulation problems, dead trees and old sidewalks, among the reasons that encourage the renovation.

“It’s an opportunity to breath new life into a landscape,” Hibbard said.

The new redesign features an upper plaza between Fisher Theater and Stephens Auditorium, a middle terrace plaza and a wide event lawn. The upper plaza will be organized to reflect the geometry of Fisher Theater and Stephens Auditorium with places to sit, and it could be used in a number of different ways as formal space.

Hibbard compares the upper plaza design to a plaza at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

The event lawn is surrounded by walkways which could be hosts for bench seating around the edges and will include enough space for chair seating of 2,855 and potential standing room for 2,965 people.

Due to the past flooding, Kathy Brown, assistant director for campus physical planning and a co-leader in the improvements for the Iowa State Center courtyard, has made it a priority to see that the proper plants be chosen for the area.

“One of the things that we would do is select plants that could take the flooding conditions,” Brown said. “If they do [flood], we would look to enhance the soils, hope to improve further survivability of plants.”

ISU alumnus Chris Osore voiced his opinions to Hibbard about the space’s lack of energy.

“How do you energize this space? Maybe there’s a way to almost artificially correlate that?” Osore said. “I think it’s really going in the right place. You’ve created that space where if someone wants to go with a book, they can.”

Hibbard hopes that the venues in the surrounding area will create the energy needed and suggested the possibility of placing built-in anchoring for tents on the plaza to encourage events to be held there. 

“We can create a place that more people can use in a positive way. That’s one of the most exciting things for me,” Brown said.