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So, What is With the Tower?


Oct. 27th, 2021

Ames community members and Iowa State faculty and students have driven by the construction of a structure in Reiman Gardens for about three years. Even though the project is complete, some still ask when it will be finished.


During a ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 15, 2021, Sycamore Falls opened as a new feature in the existing Reiman Gardens. The new addition showcases perennial gardens and a series of water features, including a waterfall, bubbling spring, a wide stream and a reflection pool. The most prominent feature is the sizable tower that looks over University Boulevard.


Director of Reiman Gardens, Ed Lyon, said that in 2015, a master plan that laid out the next 20 to 25 years for Reiman Gardens was put together by Spurlock Landscape Architects out of California. The new addition of Sycamore Falls was a part of this plan and was set to be the “feature garden,” which Lyon described to be the most iconic part of a garden.


In 2017, the existing land and trees were cleared to begin construction. Construction officially began in the spring of 2018. Lyon said numerous setbacks in the construction changed the goal opening date from 2019 to 2021.

 While on a trip to see Kansas City’s Powell Gardens, Lyon and his team loved the garden’s chapel structure; they experienced the feeling of being indoors, and a part of nature. They wanted to generate the same sensation with Sycamore Falls’ tower.


After hours of designing and countless rough drafts, a final design for the tower was complete. With that design now built, Lyon’s goal is to have guests walk up to the tower and stand beneath it. He said that the structure is meant to make guests feel like they are walking through the forest.


The current structure has a metal frame and slatted wood pieces covering the outside. The circular top is open to the sky.


“If you look up, visually, there is an optical illusion that the trees come inward,” Lyon said. “This represents standing in that opening in the woods,”


The slatted wood represents the breaks in the foliage of leaves, like in a forest when the sunlight peaks through the trees.


“Every time you stand up here during different times of the day, the sunlight will come through in different patterns,” Lyon said.


The tower also features a state-of-the-art lighting system that the Reiman Gardens staff can change at any time. They have used red and yellow for Iowa State home games, orange for Halloween and green for Green Dot Month.  


Lyon notes that some members of the Ames community had negative feedback about the eye-catching structure.


“The steel structure went up first, and the wood didn’t go up for a long time,” Lyon said. “People didn’t care for it.”


Ashtyn Hutcheson, a junior at Iowa State, has been driving past the structure and its construction since she was a freshman.


“This whole time, I thought it was unfinished; I didn’t realize it was supposed to be like an art piece,” Hutcheson said.


Others have a different opinion on the new addition.


Marty Hudson traveled from Bloomfield, Iowa, to see Reiman Gardens and its new addition for the first time.


“It’s beautiful,” Hudson said. “It’s very striking when you come up University Boulevard and see it.”  

After the grand opening, Lyon said that he had received positive feedback from those who had visited the garden.


“We’ve been getting many, many compliments on it,” Lyon said.

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