The Neal Smith Federal Building is the largest administrative office building operated by the GSA in Iowa. Built in 1966, the facility was significantly re-clad in 2002. This re-cladding unified the façade. Unfortunately, however, funding shortfalls precluded completing this project. As a result, the first floor and entry plaza retain the tired 1966 language. The design team was commissioned to develop a solution to address the following functional and architectural challenges:
• Enhance the public presence of the building and engage the street.
• Provide a single security entry meeting current DHS and FPS requirements.
• Provide mechanical air intake at least 40 feet above street level.
• Provide a public connection to Des Moines’ skywalk system.
• Relocate the building’s cafeteria from the sixth floor.
The solution proposes a two story “porch”. This porch was conceived as a light steel structure placed below a thin roof – as if the glass façade of the building was simply creased and folded out. A transparent enclosure, contoured to address the surrounding site forces, is inserted within this structure. A grand stair and elevator at the west end provides access to an existing skywalk bridge. The cafeteria is relocated to the east end of the porch. A single security entry is created at the center of the building between two air-intake shafts. Red, white and blue “Panelite” provides privacy to second floor tenant spaces and communicates the governmental function of the building. The result addresses disparate functional challenges in a single, gestural response.