Text by Ian Volner
The American Republic Insurance Building in Des Moines, Iowa, is the kind of dignified modernist office block that’s often taken for granted in smaller American cities. This one in particular, however, is a true diamond in the rough: Designed by legendary Skidmore, Owings & Merrill principal Gordon Bunshaft, the project was completed in 1965, a key moment in the architect’s career between his landmark Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University and his Marine Midland Building in New York. The structure’s 2016 sprucing-up by the Des Moines office of BNIM has finally given American Republic—now the national headquarters of the American Enterprise Group—the attention it deserves.
Updating the building for the needs of today’s office workers, the renovation team managed to duplicate the refined simplicity of the building’s eight-story interior while completely transforming its entire M/E/P profile to meet up-to-date performance standards. A new open-office plan gives it a more contemporary feel and efficient layout, but also perfectly complements the 90-foot clear span devised by Bunshaft, eliminating the visual clutter of walled partitions. Further transparency is provided by new sliding glass office doors, and the exterior windows have been replaced with better insulated high-performance glass that still matches the historical feel of the originals. A substantial art collection, amassed by the client over the last 50 years, was carefully removed during the complete gut-reno, cataloged and stored and then reinstalled to stunning effect under a new and improved lighting scheme. Two years in the making, BNIM’s retrofit has reduced the building’s energy consumption by two-thirds, making this midcentury masterpiece a model of 21st century functionality.
Project: American Enterprise Group, Des Moines, Iowa
Client/Owner: American Enterprise Group
Architect/Interior Designer/Sustainability: BNIM, Des Moines, Iowa . Rod Kruse, faIA, Kevin Nordmeyer, AIA (principals); Carey Nagle, AIA (associate principal); Paul Kempton, AIA, Levi Robb, Assoc. AIA, Kayla Ohrt, Assoc. AIA, Dana Sorensen, Assoc. AIA, Jeff Shaffer, Assoc. AIA, Lana Zoet, Assoc. AIA, Phil Bona, AIA
Mechanical Engineer/Electrical Engineer/Lighting Designer: Design Engineers
Structural Engineer: Charles Saul Engineering
Civil Engineer: Snyder & Associates
General Contractor: Ryan Cos.
Owner Representative/Historic Preservation: Christensen Development
Architectural Historian: Jennifer James Communication
Code Consultant: FP+C Consultants
Building Energy Consultant: The Weidt Group
Acoustical and A/V Consultant: The Sextant Group
Electrical Contractor: Baker Electric
M/E/P Contractor: Baker Group
Commissioning Consultant: SystemWorks
Historic Concrete Restoration Consultant: Structural Engineering Associates
Furniture Vendor: Saxton
Fire Protection: Viking Automatic Sprinkler Co.
Elevator Vendor: Schindler Elevator
Kitchen Consultant: Boelter Cos.
Construction Photographer: Multivista Systems
Size: 153,400 gross square feet
This article appeared in the May 2016 issue of ARCHITECT magazine.
Project DescriptionFROM THE ARCHITECTS:
Located in Des Moines, Iowa, the American Republic Insurance Building fills a half block of land on in the main western central business district. Occupied by American Enterprise Group (AEG), the building is eight stories tall and was originally designed and constructed in 1965 by the New York office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) under architect Gordon Bunshaft, FAIA. Not only is the building considered a noteworthy example of modern architecture, but AEG has also compiled an extensive and notable art collection over the last 50 years.
BNIM completed an extensive and complex renovation of the 154,000 sf cast-in-place concrete structure. The renovation included redesign and replacement all of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems on all floors. State of the art technology has been incorporated into the existing structure. New, open office furniture systems were incorporated on all office levels to provide for a more efficient working environment. The entire building was gutted during the renovation and the art was carefully cataloged and stored. BNIM collaborated with AEG on providing new wall surfaces and substrates for the reinstallation of the art.