Forever True, For Iowa State

Designed for a new way of thinking

Tom Goetz placed his moldering high school football on the floor next to a worn tutu. He had brought it to the kickoff activity for OPN Masterclass, a weekend workshop led by globally recognized designers for Iowa State architecture students. Within moments, Tom realized this show-and-tell would be nothing like a grade-school exercise. In fact, he says, “it blew my mind.”

Then pursuing his master’s degree in architecture at Iowa State, Tom and the other students drew, painted, decorated and projected their items throughout the paper-covered room until they seemed part of each other. Time spent commenting and reflecting on the work created layers of intermingled thought and memory. Tom says the process pushed participants to find “areas of emotional content” – a key skill for an architect.

“It was an intense lesson in seeing, listening and responding. It was a fresh perspective, a new way of thinking in design that’s difficult to get otherwise. I continue to learn from it today.”

The 2020 Iowa State graduate credits his experience with a heightened sense of insight and confidence, as well as a willingness to think and imagine with greater depth. “Thanks in part to the OPN Masterclass, I was not only able to represent what is in my head to others on paper, but also to construct an argument for the spatial design decisions I was making. Both of these are necessary in architecture.”

Ensuring access to exceptional experiences such as Tom’s was a leading aspiration of the Forever True, For Iowa State campaign. In fact, the workshop helped launch Tom’s career with OPN, the architectural firm whose gift made the class possible.

“The OPN Masterclass was difficult, challenging and rigorous, but insanely rewarding and memorable. It was transformative,” Tom says. “I’m so grateful to OPN Architects for making the experience available to Iowa State architectural students.”