Substance Architecture


Neal Smith Federal Building Pavilion

Des Moines, Iowa

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.

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