ISU students design proposals for new educational center in Iowa Judicial Building

Judicial design studio winning team

This spring, student groups in Design Studies 546 worked together on designing proposals for a new learning space in the Iowa Judicial Building in Des Moines. Meshallah Muhammad, left, and Mayli Grady collaborate in class. Muhammad and Grady were members of the winning team, The Cherry Sisters. Photo by Christopher Gannon. Larger image.

DES MOINES, Iowa — As the Iowa Judicial Branch Building shifts from physical to digital files, Iowa State University students have designed proposals to turn the soon-to-be-vacant space into an experiential learning center for the public.

This spring, the students worked in a design studio led by Andrea Quam, associate professor of graphic design; Pete Evans, senior lecturer in industrial design; and Michael Ford, lecturer in interior design. Six teams — each with students from architecture, graphic design, industrial design and interior design — created unique design concept proposals for the space.

The students recently presented their proposals to Iowa Chief Justice Mark Cady; Michael Gartner, former president of NBC News and former Iowa Board of Regents president; Steve Sukup, chief financial officer for Sukup Manufacturing; Molly Kottmeyer, counsel to the chief justice; and Jim Evans, director of state judicial facilities.

The proposals may be incorporated into future designs for the space.

This is the first-ever collaboration between the Iowa Judicial Branch and Iowa State University. During a conversation with ISU President Wendy Wintersteen, Cady mentioned his dream for a learning center at the Iowa Judicial Branch Building. Wintersteen connected Cady and judicial branch staff with the ISU College of Design — and this design studio was formed.

To prepare for the project, the students looked to the Colorado Judicial Learning Center in Denver as a precedent. They toured the center earlier this year to learn more about its beginnings and how it was designed.

“The students were able to experience not only how the learning center was built, but the behind the scenes of the research and design work it took to create it,” Quam said.

They returned to Iowa recognizing the extensive research of Iowa’s judicial history they needed to conduct in order to design exhibits that were not only aesthetically interesting, but with zero legal flaws in order to meet their client’s educational goals.

“This is different from some other design studios because so much research was involved,” Ford said. “The students went into this project with no content.”

ISU faculty developed an open framework for the course’s curriculum, allowing for self-direction and interdisciplinary development of the teams designing within the 3,400 square feet of space on the first floor of the Judicial Branch Building.

“We wanted them to take ownership and really think critically about how to create an engaging environment,” Quam said.

Student designs range from low-tech tactile interactions to high-tech explorations, including a virtual reality courtroom, touch-screen learning opportunities, trivia, interactive exhibits and other digital experiences.

“For the students, this project provides an opportunity to work with a real client and a real space, as well as a chance to learn how to apply their disciplinary expertise to an interdisciplinary team,” Quam said.

“This project connects the students directly to Iowa and its constituents,” Evans said. “It speaks to the fact that Iowa State is the only land-grant university in the state, and our mission of teaching, research and outreach goes hand in hand with this effort.”