Close this search box.
Exterior University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art


University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art Wins Master Builders of Iowa – Masters Award

Russell is proud to announce construction efforts on the recently completed University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art project won a Master Builders of Iowa – Masters Award in the $25 MM+ category, at this year’s winter conference held on February 28th.

The Masters Award is given annually in recognition of “exceptional efforts of a construction team in executing the process of completing a project,” according to MBI’s website. The award is presented in three different categories, with the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art project falling in the largest – over $25 MM.   


A Little Background 

Originally named the University of Iowa Museum of Art, the space was created around the concepts of learning, community, and appreciating fine art since it was established in 1969. Its impressive collection is home to over 800 African art objects and works by notable European and American artists including Pablo Picasso, Grant Wood, and Jackson Pollock, whose 1943 masterpiece “Mural” has been the esteemed treasure of the collection since it was donated to the university by art collector Peggy Guggenheim in 1951.

In June 2008, a devastating flood swept through Iowa, severely damaging multiple buildings on the University of Iowa campus including the University of Iowa Museum of Art. Quick action by determined museum staff and volunteers resulted in the preservation of every piece in the collection. However, the building was deemed uninsurable by its art insurer, Lloyd’s of London. Without a permanent building, the collection was divided up among several locations, and the museum staff found new opportunities to share art with the community until a new home could be built.


Building A Masterpiece 

After years of extensive planning, Russell was selected by the University of Iowa to construct the new 86,200 s.f. three-story, newly renamed, Stanley Museum of Art in July 2019. Working in collaboration with BNIM Architects, the University of Iowa, and museum staff, construction began in August 2019 on the new $38.5 MM facility.  

A true masterpiece in itself – the museum was designed with 47,838 s.f. of usable space – including underground parking, a visual classroom, three-story lightwell, visible storage, art lounge, two outdoor terraces, and 16,500 s.f. of gallery space. Interior finishes include wood slat ceilings, wood flooring, custom access doors, custom built-in display cases, and custom easel walls. Several unique features of the museum include:

  • The exterior curtain wall façade was designed with an alternating, and complex, pattern of brick texture and finish that transforms with the change of seasons and the amount of sunlight.
  • A three-story lightwell, located in the middle of the building, brings a unique feature that provides a sense of connection between the floors. Natural light is drawn into the space connecting visitors to the outdoors through low-iron glass that is clearer than typical glass.
  • The museum features a large, custom freight elevator with a 21’ x 10’ interior cab that was specially designed to be able to transport Jackson Pollock’s enormous work “Mural” (8′ 1 1/4″ x 19′ 10″). The elevator itself weighs 19,807 lbs and can carry up to 10,000 lbs and is currently the largest elevator in the state of Iowa! The entire museum was built with this painting in mind.


Since construction completed in January 2022, the Stanley Museum of Art has transformed into a focal point for the University of Iowa campus.


A True Honor

“I am absolutely thrilled to receive this recognition of the Stanley Museum of Art’s beautiful new building and the elegant work that Russell did to create it. I have so enjoyed watching visitors from across Iowa and around the world respond with delight as they cross our threshold. It’s truly gratifying to know that the leaders of Iowa’s construction industry share their admiration,” stated Lauren Lessing, the Director of the Stanley Museum of Art.

The Masters Award, presented by the Master Builders of Iowa, is a coveted recognition sought by contractors from across the state of Iowa. The last time Russell placed first in the larger $25 MM+ category was in 2003 with an extensive and addition project at the East Campus of Genesis Health System.   

“To say we are excited about this project being selected for a Masters Award, is an understatement! We are extremely proud to be recognized by MBI, and this award is attributed to the hard working and valuable team members who successfully delivered this project for the University,” stated Caitlin Russell, President of Russell.

To learn more about the University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, please view the video put together by the Master Builders of Iowa.