The Communications Center, the first permanent classroom building constructed during the expansive post–World War II era, was built to house the School of Journalism and the Daily Iowan. Spun off from the Department of English in 1923, Journalism already had distinguished alumni, including George Gallup. Before going on to found his opinion poll, Gallup was also the editor-in-chief of the Daily Iowan and, briefly, a member of the faculty. The Communications Center now houses photographic studios and the Center for Human Rights.
As the first example of International style Modernism on the main campus, the Communications Center used its radical design to express the advanced communications technologies used inside. Aggressively advancing a machine aesthetic of simple, hard-edged geometries expressed in concrete, the Communications Center disdains traditional ornament in favor of clean horizontal lines and the repetition of standardized forms. The recessed podium, faced in Brutalist concrete panels, emphasizes the forward thrust of the sun baffles of the top two stories, which were referred to as “a distinctive as well as functional feature, providing shade from direct sunlight and reflecting light into the building.” It references similar grids developed by Oscar Niemeyer and Le Corbusier for tropical locales. Had the planned fourth floor not fallen victim to the budget, the street façade’s lattice would have been still more imposing. The Communications Center’s Modernism presages many later campus buildings with standardized façades, including the Center for Disabilities and Development (1954), Burge Residence Hall (1959), the Pharmacy Building (1961), and Van Allen Hall (1964). It is perhaps fitting that this Modernist design aesthetic was introduced to campus by the successor firm of Proudfoot and Bird, the Des Moines architects who first brought architectural distinction to the University. Historically, this departure represents the University’s daring first initiative to engage a cutting-edge mode of mid-twentieth- century architectural style, an approach to progressive design thereafter supported by successive University administrations.
The building is accessible to persons with disabilities.