Lily Pavilion - CODAworx

Client: Iowa State University

Location: Ames, IA, United States

Completion date: 2018

Artwork budget: $475,000

Project Team


RDG Planning & Design


Iowa State University

Lighting Design

RDG Planning & Design

General Contractor

Henkel Construction Co

Landscape Architect

RDG Planning & Design

Metal Fabrication

Johnson Machine Works, Inc.

Metal Fabrication

Cox Design & Metal Fabrication


Allied Construction Services / Color Inc.

Structural Engineer

Raker Rhodes Engineering, LLC


Steel Erectors of Iowa


Elite Glass & Metal, LLC


Van Maanen Electric, Inc.


“Lily Pavilion,” located on the grounds of the ISU Jack Trice Green Space, is an Iowa Art-in-State-Buildings Commission created by the Public Artist Team of Matt Niebuhr and David Dahlquist with the Art Studio at RDG Planning & Design. The pavilion fabricated of stainless steel, concrete, and glass serves as an iconic focal point for a multipurpose open green space providing shade and a unique place to gather for group activities.


The Lily Pavilion is inspired by nature. As an iconic focal point, the installation celebrates the history and connections between the study of horticulture, ecology, biology and the first land grant college in the country, Iowa State University. With a recognized history of plant sciences and research at ISU and the site’s proximity to Reiman Gardens, the idea for the installation developed from looking closely at vascular forms and cellular patterns found in the “Victoria Lily” an aquatic plant specimen cultivated in Lake Helen at Reiman Gardens. The pavilion as art is an invitation to marvel at the simple wonders and elegance of a floating lily pad. Stainless steel panels and colored glass medallions create a dappled shade pattern with hints of color. Visitors become a part of the experience beneath the pavilion and are invited to look up and wonder at the patterns and arrangement of color slipping between interpretations and comparisons of the micro and the macro between the cellular structure and the stars of the night sky.


The installation is a synthesis of art, architecture, that functions on many levels. Working with Landscape Architects designing the site, the Lily Pavilion serves as a destination landmark within a broader context of the Jack Trice Greenspace and as a gathering spot beneath a play of light and shadow. Working closely with our Project Engineer and Fabricator, our team was able to design an elegant structural support with hanging rods that could be assembled completely off site. The installation was then disassembled and re-installed as the site construction team completed site work for the project.

Additional Information

A synthesis of art and structure, the installation includes custom formed and milled steel anchor pins, structural tubing with diablo joints and custom milled stainless-steel hanger rods from which suspend a 30’ diameter disc of cut metal stainless-steel panels. Above the panels are placed colored glass medallions, arranged to suggest a pattern of stars overhead illuminated by the sun creating a play of light and shadow inviting personal discovery and a closer look at nature’s wonders.