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BNIM Iowa | Notes of Interest

Located in a former bank lobby on the southeast corner of an active street intersection, the space includes full-height glazing to the north and west, building lobby to the south, and a new demising wall to the east. The volume of the space was maintained with minimal insertions of partial height elements to harvest daylight and define programmatic functions. Planning that responded to the formal existing window module established a rigorous spatial organization of all improvements, reinforcing the interior diagram and engaging the public at street level.

The parti is organized around a central wall that bridges the north and south limits of the space. Clad in cork panels for critiques, spontaneous collaboration, and display, this interactive wall creates an edge to the studio environment and defines an open conference area and kitchen/library/work space. Shared daylight, acoustics, and multiple levels of planned and unplanned interaction are vital parts of achieving the spirit of collaboration set forth as the key design objective. Adjacent and fully visible to the street corner, the studio has brought life to the street level and helped foster a rejuvenation of the neighborhood.

This project incorporates a number of sustainable strategies, beginning with the tenant’s goal to assist in revitalizing the urban core of the city. Occupying a street-level interior space in an existing building that had been vacant for several years and revitalizing a struggling area with fleeing tenants were key project decisions to promote and sustain a healthy urban relationship. The interior open plan diagram with tall ceilings and partial-height walls provides 100 percent daylight in all regularly occupied spaces. The studio is located adjacent to the existing full-height glass to achieve views with a 90-degree spectrum. A mirrored film was removed from the glass to improve daylighting and views from the space, and to allow views into the space and animate the street.

The central wall also engages and activates the streetscape by the display of work in progress. Strategies also include the adaptive reconfiguration of existing custom furniture components from the tenant’s previous location, use of materials with recycled content including carpet and cork display panels, low VOC paint, zoned lighting for evening use, and the procurement of new furniture from companies with high sustainability missions. All metal material retrieved from demolition was recycled and proceeds donated to a local animal organization.

Additional Credit

  • Contractor: Meycon Construction  

Photo Credit

    © Farshid Assassi


  • Architect: BNIM
  • Owner: BNIM
  • Location: Des Moines

Jury Comments

This project has the mark of a mature designer, willing to reduce the existing space to its barest essentials. It exhibits restraint and control to make a very elegant and sophisticated design solution.

The scheme integrates and adapts a classic exterior language into the interior space.

The connection to the street is celebrated, using its activity to enliven the interior, where the details are conceptually aligned to the language of the architecture.

A simple and clear diagram executed beautifully.

More about BNIM Iowa.

2013 Institute Honor Awards for Interior Architecture Jury

  • Andrew Wells, FAIA (Chair)
  • Dake Wells Architecture, Springfield, Missouri
  • Susan H. Jones, FAIA
  • Atelierjones, LLC, Seattle
  • Carlos M. Martinez, AIA
  • Gensler, Chicago
  • Ronald J. McCoy, FAIA
  • Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey
  • Catherine M. Truman, AIA
  • Ann Beha Architects, Boston

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