Modulation - CODAworx

Client: Iowa State University

Location: Ames, IA, United States

Completion date: 2016

Artwork budget: $1,800,000

Project Team


Matt Niebuhr

RDG Dahlquist Art Studio


RDG Planning & Design

Landscape Architect

RDG Planning & Design

Interior Designer

RDG Planning & Design

Lighting Design

RDG Planning & Design

Sustainable Design / LEED

RDG Planning & Design



Civil Engineering

Fox Engineering Associates

Construction Manager / General Contractor

Story Construction


Artist led design in conjunction with the architect of record & design team (RDG Planning & Design). Custom ceramic frit pattern on glass with shadow box & insulated glass units, part of a custom design & built unitized curtainwall by SotaWall Systems – Canada. Linear ceramic frit patterns on glass & shadow boxes within the unitized system are inspired by & echo patterns commonly found in agricultural fields in IA & the Midwest.


Our aspirations are to create public art experiences inspired by story, structure and site. This project integrates visual art as an architectural façade treatment for a new building that functions as a daylighting solar control feature while also creating a unique character and sense of place.
The story began as graphite line drawings exploring various linear patterns and figure / ground rhythms born of the artists observations in response to the region’s agricultural landscapes. Linear patterns emerge on the rural landscape marked off in neat square mile sections in an ever-changing patchwork throughout the seasons creating richly varied patterns of lines from grooves of freshly plowed furrows in early spring or the first bright white snows marking rows of stubble and stalks in fall. The artist worked closely with the lighting designer and project architect to select and design patterns translated into ceramic frits applied in a custom pattern modulating the amount of light and transparency of the unitized glass curtainwall. The design team together with the artist achieved daylighting levels that reduced glare, solar heat gain, and electrical lighting requirements while creating a unique dynamic and artful visual experience on the primary facades of the building.


The artist produced a series of drawings that were used to develop frit patterns in varying widths and opacity, modulating the daylight, reducing solar heat gain, while maintaining views to the outside. The artist worked closely with the lighting designer to tune the patterning and adjust densities, while working with the architect and the curtain wall glass manufacture to develop three distinct patterns used throughout the project in different combinations for visual variation. The pattern is created of a ceramic frit that is fired in the float glass process on the internal faces of the insulated glass unit in combination with vision glass panels and with opaque insulated spandrel “shadowbox” units as part of the figure ground shift in appearance from day to night and a unique visual experience for the project.