Shelby Doyle AIA Assistant Professor of Architecture and Olivia Valentine Assistant Professor of Art & Visual Culture


Mesophases is an installation by students of the Iowa State University College of Design. It celebrates Mainframe Studios’ past, present, and future through a series of installations in textiles and plaster which present the notion of space in transition. The project takes its title from the term mesophase or the state of matter intermediate between liquid and solid.  Mainframe Studios is named for the mainframe computers which once occupied its floors and connected Iowans through telecommunications.  Transformed into a present-day space of creativity, the building now connects the community through art and design. Mainframe Studios and the ISU College of Design share a history and a mission: both were designed by Des Moines architect Charles “Chick” Herbert and both are committed of the possibility of space and design as catalysts to transform communities. 


Mesophases occupies Mainframe Studios’ atrium and serves as a billboard to the adjacent streets, announcing that the space is reinhabited and revitalized by its creative occupants. The fabric-cast objects in each planter recall the modularity and rigidity of the historic computer bays for which Mainframe is named. Remaking these bays in fabric transforms the circuits into porous and permeable cast objects.  The knit fabrics stretched above the space create a canopy and entry sequence to Mainframe’s lobby. By wrapping the space in changing light and shadows passerby are welcomed into the atrium. The structural concrete column at the atrium’s center is transformed in a new-knit column. This design evokes the substrate of a coral reef, an environment populated and defined by its support for a wide-variety of life.  Mesophases holds in tension ideas and materials – plaster and textiles, new and old, surfaces and objects, rigid and soft. In doing so, the project reveals how differences and oppositions can work in concert as a form of connectivity.  


This course was possible because the Iowa State University College of Design is one of the most comprehensive design colleges in the country: home to seven departments, fostering opportunities for unique interdisciplinary collaborations. 

Architecture Tyler Beers, Leray Chen, Alex DuToit, Eric Heckman, Ayla Hendrickson, Seth Jenkins, Nathan Jones, Jessie Laughridge, Brandon Lewis, Michael McKinney, Nate Sands, Ian Spadin, Casey White Art & Visual Culture Dan Nutt Industrial Design Claire Kilfoyl Interdisciplinary Design James Patterson Interior Design Shannon Burkle, Linsey Schminke, Katelyn Schmitt Landscape Architecture Riley Dunn, Charlie Rueb, Cassie Schilling


This course hosted three workshops which supported the development of this installation.

Matsys Andrew Kudless, Associate Professor of Architecture, California College of the Arts

This 3-day workshop focused on the use of flexible fabric formwork in casting plaster and concrete. This workshop explored both analog and digital techniques for the design and simulation of casting using flexible formwork.  In addition, students worked in groups to develop a collective series of cast wall panels.

Construction Engineering Cliff Plymesser, Senior Lecturer Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering  and Vice President, Customer Solutions Group at EFCO Corp.

This 4-day workshop focused on the structural integrity of the proposed installation. This collaboration emerged due to a grant from JE Dunn Construction to support engagement between students from architecture and construction engineering.  

Fologram Gwyllim Jahn, CCO

This 2-day workshop introduced the use of augmented reality for design and construction. This involved the integration of 3D digital models into the Mainframe atrium via Microsoft Hololens with Fologram a software that integrates Hololens with Rhino 3D modeling software.