CAS 420 /// Session #1 : 100 to 200 Year Impact

Urban design/planning impacts quality of life for 100 to 200 years.
Architecture impacts for 50 to 100 years.
Program impacts for 10 to 20 years.

– Dennis Reynolds

420 Corner

You may have seen images of projects in the news from the developer proposals for 420 Court Avenue in Des Moines.  One of our more publicized images from our Court Avenue Station concept features lit glass “Beacon” marking the start of Court Avenue in the context of the future Walnut Street Retail District + 5th Street North/South circulation.  Beyond attractive urban solutions, we think there are many very important reasons + purposes that inform the ideas our team proposed.  So here is the money shot (above), but let’s start at the beginning to see where the ideas originate.  Each day over the next week we’ll feature a new blog post in the series titled : CAS 420 (like a college course, but with more urban design fun!).

The Court Entertainment District is already a vibrant urban space in our city (home to great public events including the farmer’s market), so how should the current entertainment + residential zones engage + build upon each other?


The best way to develop + maintain a stable + healthy entertainment district is to have plenty of connected residential units that take ownership of the district + feed a more responsible user group into the district.  Entertainment districts that lack their own built in residential component struggle with questions of “who’s district is it?” and “will people act responsibly?”.


Critical to the success of our 420 project is how we support + strengthen the existing residences on 4th street + the historic Depot.  Currently there is one side of a walkable residential neighborhood street along 4th between Court and the railroad.  The proposed design will enhance + complete this by providing additional walk up residences on 4th + also by locating the main parking garage new entrance off of 5th.  In order to properly respect, enjoy + engage the historic Depot to the south, our design creates a pedestrian-scale, single lane, neighborhood street which will promote balanced activity between the depot + new residences.


Existing Neighborhood Street



Proposed Neighborhood Street

We believe that completing this neighborhood street will stitch together the urban fabric at the south end of the block.  The scale and proportion of the walkable street need to build off of the 4th Street Condos across the street.  When we met with the SoCo condo association, they were excited to add on to their neighborhood experience + hoped that for-sale product could also work on the west side of the street.  Though market conditions are currently unfavorable for condo development, our solution incorporates 2 story walk up units at the ground level on 4th street which will be well suited to convert to a condo regime once the market shifts in favor of for-sale product.  We strive to get these big picture urban moves right so the the fabric of our city benefits for 100 to 200 years.


Urban design/planning decisions impact quality of life for 100 to 200 years…building/architecture decisions impact for 50 to 100 years…program decisions impact for 10 to 20 years.  Make good urban design decisions first, then look to architecture and program.

– Dennis Reynolds, Reynolds Urban Design


CAS 420 is an opportunity to step into the SSA ‘war room’ where urban diagrams, placemaking ideas + urban living drove the design for our submission to the City of Des Moines for the project located at 420 Court Avenue.  Hubbell Realty Company, Slingshot Architecture + Reynolds Urban Design teamed up to propose a thoughtful solution derived from a regionalist connection.  Please comment + share with your friends.  

The Des Moines Rental Market Demands, Fleming Apartments Deliver

Slingshot_Nelson_FlemingBLDG_104502_Studio_Living         Slingshot_Nelson_FlemingBLDG_104513_Studio_BedBathKitch_Combined

Slingshot_Nelson_FlemingBLDG_104499_Studio_EntryKitchen2         Slingshot_Nelson_FlemingBLDG_104461_2BDRM_Bath

Downtown Des Moines’ Historic Fleming Building offers small studios that live large! A market survey conducted by the development team revealed several key factors that renters were looking for in a downtown residence.  They want to have their own space downtown that is affordable for a single person.  Smaller kitchens, bedrooms + bathrooms were acceptable as long as the living space was large + well lit.  Studio units could hit the mark if designed well.

Slingshot began with research + analysis of studio units in other new urban residential projects.  We found that studios were typically left over areas of the floor plate laid out without much thought of how someone might live in the space or arrange their furniture.

The Fleming studio pushes all of the non-living area functions toward the corridor in a compact footprint allowing for a 200 sf living space amounting to 50% of the 400 sf unit.  This arrangement allows for spacious living or a combination of home office or dining that would typically not be an option in studio living.  Successful proof of our concept is defined in the marketplace where over half the units in the building were studio units and all were leased within a month.

Z:Current Project2011-07 Fleming Building Rehab12 RevitCad ePrint





River Place – MU1

2013.12.16 MU1 - NW View at Dusk

We have just submitted for permit a new mixed-use building, MU1, for downtown Cedar Falls, IA as part of the River Place Development. We are excited to design this mixed-use building for the development as they look to activate the zone between historic Main St. and the Cedar River. MU1 is the second building in the development and it aims to bring local businesses to State St. while also providing modern downtown living opportunities. The development has plans for another mixed-use building to the east, a new hotel to the north and a large gathering plaza, in the center, that binds the development together.

Screen Shot 2013-11-06 at 3.57.11 PM

MU1 will be a 4-story building with commercial and business zoning for the lower 2 levels and residential on the upper 2 levels. The street level at the south portion of the building makes strong ties to Main St. by applying a similar storefront strategy with set-back entries and large windows into the tenant spaces and also utilizes similar brick types. As the building shifts to residential above, the materiality takes a more contemporary approach with a vertical cement board pattern. The north end of the building, adjacent to the future plaza, makes a more modern statement for the development as a large geometric mass of new masonry types that is visible from Main St.

Z:Current Project2013.27 Trilix12 RevitRiver Place MU1 - CEN

One of the more distinct design elements of MU1 are the balconies for the residential units. We were inspired by the industrial trusses of the bridges that span across the Cedar River close by and decided to implement a similar structural system for the cantilevered balconies.

Exile Brewery Wins 2013 AIA Craft Award


Slingshot Architecture has been recognized by the American Institute of Architects Iowa Chapter as a recipient of the 2013 Craft Award. The award recognizes excellence in inventiveness + execution + incorporation of craft into our built environment. Special thanks to RCS Millwork & Ball Team LLC. for their expert involvement in the project making this award possible. See what the jurors had to say in the AIA award brochure link below.

Exile Brewery – Craft Award Pages

For more on this project check it out on the web


Gateway Retail Building

Construction is underway for the Gateway Retail project. This project takes advantage of the non-perpendicular site at the corner of 17th and Ingersoll Ave. We are very excited for the impact this project will have at the corner and the compliment it will be to the Gateway Lofts which shares the site.


NE 3D View

NE 3D View

Site Plan

Site Plan


SE 3D View

The project is scheduled to be completed at the end on November. Stay tuned for more updates during construction.

KC Ops Centre – The walls come down!

Our first project in Kansas City, MO is off to a fast start! Earlier this week, construction commenced on an exterior renovation of an existing office building. We are excited to see this project take shape in the next few weeks.

Final Design Rendering

Final Design Rendering

How do you add daylight into a precast concrete panel that was not engineered for windows? The design solution to adding daylight was to remove the entire concrete panel and insert new storefront windows in the void. Below, you can see the first panel being removed. The impact of these new openings will make this space very desirable to the future tenants!

1st panel removed!

1st panel removed!


Norden Hall Rowhouse – Moving Day!

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September 26th is fast approaching and everything is quickly moving forward to prepare the Rowhouse at 709 E. Locust and its new site, 425 E. Grand, for the big moving day. At the old site, the temporary supports are in place under the first floor joist and the grade has been leveled below, previously the basement. Norden Hall is prepped and ready for the moving equipment to roll under and haul it to its new home.

photo1  IMG_3707

At the new site, footings have been poured and the CMU basement foundation is being set into place. It has been great to see the progress, especially in the last two weeks. Norden Hall is moving and we hope that everyone will come out to watch on Thursday, September 26th, moving begins at midnight.









Norden Hall Rowhouse

On the west edge of the State of Iowa Capitol Grounds at 709 East Locust sits a modest, yet historically significant row house that was built in 1894 in the historically known neighborhood of East Fort Des Moines. The rowhouse, Norden Hall, is one of the last standing row houses in town and will be spared demolition as a result of the dedication of Christensen Development working with city and state level stakeholders. The plan is to move Norden Hall from the west entry of the Capitol grounds to a new site at 425 E. Grand at the corner of E. 4th and E. Grand in the East Village.


In the past several months, we have been working closely with Jake Christensen, the developer, to plan for the rehabilitation of the row house, secure state historic tax credits and coordinate the relocation. We are proud to be a part of preserving the historic fabric of our community, as well as, excited to rediscover Norden Hall’s potential as part of the East Village of Des Moines.

425 E. Grand

DSCN7336The demolition of the west adjacent building, 707 E. Locust, has been completed and now the rowhouse is waiting for the new site to be ready. The big move is scheduled for mid-to-late September and we hope that everyone will come out and join us to watch the historic move.




Des Moines Social Club – Progress Update


Since 2007 the Des Moines Social Club has been providing a much needed and unique service to the greater Des Moines area. To steal a couple of quotes from their mission/vision statement they want to “use the arts as a catalyst to create unprecedented community engagement and build art institutions that foster social change and revitalize cities.”

Their 7‘x10’ office space inside the Kirkwood Hotel is not adequate enough to accomplish those ambitious goals. So, for the past year Slingshot has been working with the DMSC building committee (Zach Mannheimer, Justin Lossner, Jay Jagim, Matt McIver, Chad Rasmussen, and Jake Christensen) to design the conversion of the historic downtown fire station headquarters and shop building into their new home. It has been challenging, but a lot of fun and we are convinced Zach Mannheimer was born with the gift of having a “reality distortion field” surround him (which he uses only for good).

We feel the final product is the complex combination of flexibility, art integration, practicality, energy efficiency, historical appreciation, and never saying no (to theater related design changes). We dropped the drawings off at the city for permit on June 10th and we are excited to begin the construction phase with Beal | Derkenne Construction.

Please enjoy the images that we have created or acquired since the start of this project.

Firehouse Images


Marquardt SD15

MRQ, North   MRQ, South

Design for a new performing arts center was approved by the School Board Thursday night. Slingshot collaborated with Legat Architects to design the project near Chicago. David had worked on the previous campus plan including a new Administration Building and Commons addition to the middle school and the Performing Arts Center was discussed then as a future project. Working again with Dr. Loren May, a friend and SD15 superintendent, has been like old times.  Not only did David join the team, but the original construction manager and many of the engineers as well. It has been like ‘putting the old band back together’.

The new 500 seat auditorium and lobby form the bridge between the Commons addition and the connecting canopy of the 6th grade Center.  The Art addition is the centerpiece within the newly created courtyard and sculpture garden.  New band, orchestra, choral and drama classrooms wrap the south and west of the auditorium.  Materials where chosen to blend or compliment previous projects continue the campus feel. Really looking forward to completing the vision we started ten years ago.

MRQ Site   MRQ Plan

Drivers : what gets you up in the morning?


Two years ago, before we knew much about identity or even considered re-branding ge WATTIER architecture, we had a desire to more clearly define what we want to do in our work and how we want to connect with clients interested in the same things.  We took our own discovery | visioning process (now pullback) that we use to begin the design process with our clients and turned the focus on ourselves.

After a few sessions where we spoke vaguely about design, values, process and clients, we knew we had to dig deeper and get personal.  Almost naively and certainly optimistically, we asked, “What if we could drill down to 2-3 words that describe why we do what we do?  Why do we get up in the morning?”  We each took a week on our own to develop our own individual answers and then brought the team back together.

Vague descriptions were out and bold clarity took the wheel.  As a team, we sought the force that moves us to strive for great design solutions and to engage with our community and clients : our drivers.  We distilled, debated, combined, questioned and pushed until we were left with only the meat.


At Slingshot Architecture, our drivers are the heart of our purpose, but more importantly our approach to people.  make sense, serve, mean it.

What drives you?

NDC@SE6 : re-establishing a neighborhood commercial node

Old Town Sevastepol is an urban neighborhood with a faded identity.  At one time it was a community with a centered on a vibrant neighborhood commercial street that supported several blocks of surrounding single family residences.  The primary industry of the area was coal mining, but it is a short trip downtown for work as well.

Over time, the storefronts have been infilled for office or residential uses and now several buildings on the commercial block are unused and falling into disrepair.  The anchor or the street, B&B Grocery, has maintained it’s place in the community over several  generations.  Originally it was one of many functioning shops, but now is an island on a widened, busy and not pedestrian friendly SE 6th Street.

The Neighborhood Development Corporation seeks to build up the urban neighborhoods of Des Moines by invigorating the neighborhood pedestrian commercial properties and inserting quality residential opportunities.  This project will be mixed-use at a modest scale in order to tie in cohesively to the existing commercial buildings of first floor storefront and second floor residential.  We will insert pedestrian corridors that make the neighborhood more walkable and connect green spaces.

The goal is to provide a spark to the commercial corridor by punctuating it with a strong and active node.  The test of success lies beyond the leasing of this building to the point in the near future where the storefronts down the street begin opening up again with the next generation of shops.

The project is currently under construction and we will have updates on design and construction on the blog and twitter.  Also follow the project at the NDC facebook page.

Fleming Building Rehabilitation

The Fleming Building is an 11 story office building located on 6th & Walnut in downtown Des Moines. The building was designed by the nationally renowned architectural firm of D. H. Burnham & Company and construction was completed in 1907. The building’s main function for the last 100 years has been office space with some retail/restaurant space on the ground floor.

In the last 5 years the market for residential apartments in downtown Des Moines has grown strong and with the assistance of state & federal historic tax credits the rehabilitation of these old buildings has become feasible to developers. When construction is complete floors 3 thru 11 will be converted into market rate apartments while floors 1 & 2 will remain commercial/office space. The building’s mechanical, electrical, sprinklers, fire alarm, windows, and plumbing systems will have all been replaced.

Since this is a Burnham & Company building it was very important to preserve the historical fabric that was still intact from years of interior remodels, however the developer and Slingshot Architecture wanted the apartments to have a contemporary & compact design. The residential units will have all the amenities as a typical apartment but the square footage will be smaller which means lower monthly rent for the tenant but more units to rent out for the property manager. Anyone local to Des Moines may have seen the developer, Mike Nelson, speak last week at TEDx Des Moines City 2.0 about these strategies that we analyzed and implemented together.

We are looking forward to the building completion in March 2013 and letting people see the mesh of historic and new life that has been put back into this “Chicago School” inspired building.

Ori Addition, Waukee Public Library

Waukee’s Public Library is gaining a special place.  A gift from a former Waukee resident, Hiram Ori,   the Coal Mine Meeting Room and museum will tell a story which many residents do not know.  The Schuler Coal Mine, located just 2 miles northeast of Waukee, was once a community of 450 people and more than 30 mules.  The Ori family grew up in this community off Alice’s Road and wanted to create a place for the community to gather and exchange ideas.

Slingshot Architecture walked the building and site with Library Director Erik Surber to begin to understand the goals for the project and how the architecture could best tell the story of the coal mine community, while still serving the needs of the library itself.  We talked about low wood beams, dim light and how the floor could slope giving the visitor an experience of entering a mine.  The visitor should ‘feel’ what life was like for the community in the 1920’s.  The exterior black cladding symbolizes the dark shaft to reach the coal.

The meeting hall at the end would draw the visitor to a daylit room and trees beyond.  The octagon room creates a round table atmosphere and echoes back to Prairie Style architecture of the early 1900’s.  The wood roof beams and pendant lights create a warm memorable place.

We’re looking forward to beginning construction next month.


Thank you to everyone who joined us on Friday for our relaunch party.  The gathering afforded us a chance to thank our clients, consultants, friends and families for their part in our firm and our work.  To those that were not able to make it, we have also greatly appreciated your feedback and support over the last week.

I have two personal observations to share coming away from the event:

#1 – Sharing the new brand is a blast!  It is effortless and authentic.  I realized this when I caught up with a previous client that works in a space that we designed with him.  I explained the new name, our purpose and process.  It was not a shock, he was not surprised… instead he nodded in agreement and said he wanted to meet about his next office space.  Our clients know this is who we are, but now we can speak clearly about what they know.

#2 – Our team is strong and unified.  When I look back across the images of the staff preparing for the launch and then at the event, I see a group of people that cares about each other and truly enjoy spending time together.  It is awesome to work with talented individuals that are having a good time in their work.  Can’t wait to see what’s next!

“it’s just bigger than me now.”

Today we begin a new chapter in the life of our architectural firm. Over the past ten years, we have been very blessed to work on many amazing projects in Des Moines, around Iowa and in other locations. As we roll out some changes and clarity to who we are and how we desire to provide work, it is a good time to share with you a few key thoughts that have become clear and unmistakeable to me.

Although I’m not a native of Iowa, Des Moines has become my home due to the people I’ve been fortunate enough to know through work and outside of work. Thank you to all of you that have guided and pushed me to pursue my architectural dreams. Thank you to all of you who invited me to assist you with your architectural needs and provided us with several great opportunities.

I have an absolutely amazing family. Thank you mom for being an integral member of our team for several years. Your dedication and support was immeasurable. Thank you Tony and Riley for not only allowing me to pursue my passion, but your understanding when I too often chose poorly and put my work ahead of you two. Sandi, none of this would have been possible without your commitment, strength and strong love. Thank you. I hope all four of you can share in the success and pride of today because it would not have happened without you.

As for the firm itself, it’s clear “its just bigger than me now”. Our office studio is a group of amazing people that share similar life and work drivers with me. Our drivers are embedded in our Process and Purpose. Our Purpose is very simple. We need and expect Meaning in our work. If we rigorously Serve our Clients and provide processes and solutions that Make Sense, we will find and deliver Meaning. Our Process is threefold. We Pull Back so we can clearly identify a project, generate Momentum to define solutions and strive to make Impact.

Regarding our drivers, I must point out it has been difficult yet simple and very rewarding, to clearly identify them as a result of the dedicated work Justin, John and Adam at 8|7 Central did to “discover” our firm. They also created all our new, very personal, graphics and firm materials. Besides their never ending great work, we also now have three new friends and accomplices in the battle to do meaningful design.

David Voss, Dan Drendel, John Bloom and Sandi Wattier have pushed, pulled and joined forces with me over the last many years. They are awesome and I truly value working with them and their friendships. Their leadership, expertise, maturity and desire to build our firm while impacting Des Moines have made it easy for me to recognize our firm is no longer about a single person name or even a group of names. The firm name must change so it is aligned with our Process and Purpose.

ge WATTIER Architecture is now Slingshot Architecture.


name on the door (click link for video)