Project Spotlight: Bringing History to a New Building (Iowa State University)

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Iowa Prison Industries (IPI) has a long-standing relationship with Iowa State University’s Department of Residence providing tables and chairs for common areas as well as student-room furniture. These staples were part of their newest building, Geoffroy Hall. But, the staff at ISU had another project on their minds for the IPI team.

Constructing Geoffroy Hall would take out several trees, two of which had stood on the site for nearly 200 years. Of the two, one was in poor condition but rather than discard the wood, Iowa State wanted to do something creative with it in the building to connect the past to the present.

Close up of inscriptionISU staff came up with a design to fill a space in Geoffroy that would have otherwise been a blank wall. Walnut would be refined and put on to the 17-foot wall area as high-gloss planks. Other pieces from the removed trees would be left raw, minimally processed and hung over the walnut. At the base of the wall would be a large bench. A quote from George Washington Carver, an Iowa State alum, would be inscribed on to the hackberry.

“Serving students is at the core of everything we do,” said Julie Hartl Barr, Department of Residence Manager of Building Improvements. “When we looked for a place to reuse wood from the site, we landed on a wall outside the main-floor elevators. The area needed to showcase the wood but also be functional. We added the bench to create seating and a quote to add meaning.”

IPI helped the Iowa State team complete the project from design to installation and the result is a beautifully functional space where students can connect and the 200-year-old trees can be showcased for decades to come.

“IPI could not be more pleased with the work training opportunities that ISU Department of Residence has provided incarcerated individuals in our programs. Unique projects like this one allows them stretch their work skills and take pride in a job well done,” said Bob Fairfax, IPI’s Director of Sales & Marketing. “We look forward to seeing what type of project ISU will have for us next.”

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