Stephens Auditorium is 'Building of the Century'

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University's Stephens Auditorium has been selected as "Building of the Century" by the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Iowa Chapter.

Stephens Auditorium, completed in 1969 and the first building constructed at the Iowa State Center, received the prestigious honor Oct. 14 during the AIA convention in Des Moines. The Iowa Chapter announced the top 50 Iowa buildings in a juried exhibition, "A Century of Iowa Architecture," as part of the chapter's centennial celebration.

"The decade of the 1960s was a defining time in Iowa State's development into a modern university, and Stephens Auditorium became the primary symbol of that development," said Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy. "Stephens Auditorium is a testament to the vision of Iowa State's leaders of that period, and to the outstanding generosity of our alumni and friends, whose gifts made it and the three other buildings of the Iowa State Center possible. We're extremely proud that Stephens has been named Iowa's 'Building of the Century.'"

Stephens Auditorium was among 300 buildings nominated for the exhibition. The field was narrowed to 125 buildings for a jury to consider. The jury chose five buildings from each decade, one award-winner from each decade, and finally, the top award, "Building of the Century."

Vice President for Business and Finance Warren Madden, who accepted the award, said, "Stephens Auditorium really put Iowa State University and central Iowa on the cultural map. It immediately brought many of the world's top orchestras and performers to Iowa State. Stephens not only changed the face of this university, it changed the image of this university."

The jury consisted of former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray; Chuck Offenburger, former Des Moines Register columnist and RAGBRAI co-founder; Eliot Nusbaum, editor at Traditional Home magazine; Robert Findlay, AIA fellow and professor emeritus of architecture at Iowa State University; and Bob Broshar, AIA fellow and former national AIA president.

To be considered for the honor, buildings had to be located in Iowa, still standing and designed by an architect. Buildings that had previously received AIA Iowa Design Awards since the early 1960s were automatically nominated. The jury judged buildings on their original criteria and societal and cultural impact.

As part of AIA's centennial, an exhibit of the top 50 buildings selected will be on display at the State Historical Building in Des Moines through Dec. 31. After that, the display will travel to the following Iowa communities:

  • Waterloo Center for the Arts, Jan. 1 through 31, 2005
  • Sioux City Public Art Museum, Feb. 11 through March 27, 2005
  • Dubuque Museum of Art, May 1 through Aug. 31, 2005
  • Iowa State University College of Design, Ames, Sept. 27 through Oct. 30, 2005
  • MacNider Art Museum, Mason City, Jan. 26 through April 16, 2006

A 112-page book will accompany the traveling exhibit and serve as a catalog for the display. The book is available for sale through AIA Iowa, (515) 244-7502. Iowa Public Television also will air a documentary in December, "A Century of Iowa Architecture," featuring a history of the buildings and their communities.

More information about AIA Iowa and "A Century of Iowa Architecture," including a list of the state's top 50 buildings as selected by the jury, is available at


Built: 1966 through 1969

Architect: Crites & McConnell and Brooks-Borg & Skiles

Acoustical Consultant: Paul S. Veneklasen & Associates

Contractor: Martin K. Eby Construction Co.

Project cost: Approximately $4.4 million, met entirely through gifts and grants from alumni, students, faculty and other friends of Iowa State University. No tax dollars were used. Replacement cost today would be $26.7 million.

Named for: C.Y. Stephens, a 1925 graduate of then-Iowa State College. In 1962, he made a (then anonymous) gift of $1 million to the Iowa State Center project, which helped to inspire the fundraising drive he headed until his untimely death in a 1963 automobile accident.

Seating capacity:

  • 1,584 - Orchestra
  • 467 - First balcony w/loge
  • 354 - Second balcony w/loge
  • 204 - Third balcony
  • 2,609 - Total capacity
  • 112 - Additional pit seating