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Nonfiction Writing House

The University of Iowa’s graduate writing programs are some of the nation’s highest-ranked. Its highly competitive Nonfiction Writing program offers a three-year Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree and diverse courses on essays, memoirs, travelogues, and literary journalism.

Having long been situated in the English-Philosophy Building, the program sought a purpose-built location within the campus’s “writer’s neighborhood, which houses other esteemed programs like the Writer’s Workshop and the International Writing Program.

In designing the building, the team considered nonfiction writing’s ability to mold facts and illuminate deeper truths. Materials were honest yet evocative, and spaces were simplified to allow occupants’ narratives to take precedence.

The 4,500-square-foot building is enveloped in weathering steel and natural slate tile. These materials were chosen for their ability to gracefully age and develop a patina over time while expressing subtle shadows throughout the day.

The materials also complement the historic neighborhood context and bridge the gap between the contemporary structure and the surrounding buildings. Its fenestration—the arrangement of windows and doors—harmonizes with the proportions and rhythm of neighboring façades.

The lower level includes two seminar rooms, a digital recording lab, a library for public readings, and an outdoor learning space. Landscaping provides privacy for studying and outdoor classes, with a pergola blocking the sun. 

The upper level contains faculty offices and a shared graduate student office. Placing the offices on the upper floor provides views of the Iowa River while ensuring privacy from the street below.

Project Type: Higher Education

Location: Iowa City, Iowa

Size: 4,500 SF

Completed: 2023

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