The College of Nursing has a long history at the University of Iowa. Originally founded as the School of Nursing, it was organized in 1898 upon completion of University Hospital (now Seashore Hall). After attaining the status of a college in 1949, nursing was led by Myrtle Kitchell who oversaw the first matriculation of men in 1950 and the awarding of its first bachelor’s degrees in 1953. The College of Nursing now offers continuing education for nurses across Iowa in addition to its regular on-campus curriculum. This broadening of its mission also saw nursing outgrow Westlawn, leading to the construction of its current home in 1971.
The monumental Nursing Building is a Brutalist concrete structure positioned on a dramatic limestone bluff above the Iowa River. The main entrance to the building is on the north flank, facing Westlawn, while a secondary entrance on the south side is below grade, leaving its commanding south façade uninterrupted. Since the street façade is also without a portal, the purity of the building’s massive forms is left intact. Perhaps inspired by the prominent site, the architect sought to express the power of modern materials. Studiously avoiding any ostensible reference to nursing as an academic pursuit or profession, the architect adheres instead to Modernist abstractions. The overriding idea is an inverted, stepped pyramid of three levels resting on an immense podium, with each level separated by a thick concrete slab. The exposed vertical stair shaft of the dominant “T” configuration reveals the building’s muscle. The two-story main level is contained within a darkened-glass curtain wall marked with eleven attenuated pilotis on each side. To ensure the point is well made, the curtain wall pulls back at the corners to isolate the spindly end pier even more. The result is an unusually forceful presentation of Modernist themes: truth and strength of materials.
The building is accessible to persons with disabilities and is located on the west side of the Iowa River on Newton Road.