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Rain Forest Architect Brings World Vision
Work on Previous Project May Influence Design

Zack Kucharski

The Gazette

September 4, 2005

[Note: This material is copyright by The Gazette, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of The Gazette.]

    CORALVILLE — The architect Environmental Project officials hope will restart the design of their indoor rain forest has worked on several major international projects.

    He says that’s exactly what he hopes the Coralville project becomes.

    Andrew Whalley, 43, a partner in London-based Grimshaw Architects [], expects to draw from his role in the design of The Eden Project in Cornwall, England, when developing a major environmental attraction in Coralville.

    ‘‘I think there are very close parallels to The Eden Project,’’ Whalley said. ‘‘By no means will this project be an Eden Project. It will be its own unique project of world significance.’’

    Whalley also has been involved in the International Terminal Waterloo and Paddington Station Redevelopment in London and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis.

    Whalley, a partner in Londonbased Grimshaw Architects, runs the firm’s New York office. The Environmental Project introduced him Wednesday to take over as architect for the $180 million artificial rain forest.

    He envisions a facility with changing topography, elevated pathways and other unique experiences throughout the facility. The rain forest — proposed to be built just south of Interstate 80 near the Iowa River — is slated to open in 2009.

    ‘‘It will be a very exciting experience for all who use it,’’ Whalley said. ‘‘We hope it is a space where at the end of the day and they are leaving, it is too early and they want to come back again.’’

    Whalley will work with Des Moines-based RDG Planning and Design, aquarium designer Syska and the Arup firm, which also was involved in The Eden Project. Whalley also plans to work with Thornton Tomasetti, a specialist on lightweight structures, and exhibit design firm Lyons/Zaremba in Boston.

    Also, Grimshaw will open an office in Coralville.

    David Oman, executive director of The Environmental Project, said Grimshaw would provide unique level of environmental sustainability and felt its team had the most experience.

    Grimshaw was selected after the project’s former architect, Peter Sollogub, left the Boston firm that previously had been hired for that work. The Environmental Project terminated its contract with the Boston firm, Chermayeff, Sollogub & Poole Inc., in June because of concerns over intellectual property rights and other legal issues, Oman said.

    Terms of The Environmental Project’s contract with Grimshaw have not been completed.

    While Coralville Mayor Jim Fausett had hoped Environmental Project officials would rehire Sollogub, he said he respects the decision to go with Whalley.

    Fausett said he has concerns about the fact that most of Grimshaw’s projects have been completed in Europe. He also said he hopes company founder Nicholas Grimshaw plays a role in the design of the Coralville facility.

    The next three weeks are critical for whether the project is built in Coralville because three of the five City Council members oppose the project. The council is demanding during that time a binding agreement on construction and a timetable before giving the project 22 acres of city-owned land.

    Council members Tom Gill and Jean Schnake say they won’t support the land transfer — valued at about $40 million. Council member John Lundell said he will not support The Environmental Project unless its has a complete change in leadership.