New Home for Fiedler & Timmer Taking Shape

As designers we get to have a lot of fun days working with our client and contractor partners. On April 29th, Slingshot and The Hansen Company broke ground with the Fiedler & Timmer family kicking off the project. F&T works hard for their clients in the fight for a fair work environment. Their new space will allow for the opportunity to unplug with the offices arranged around the family room, spilling out onto the patio while framing views of the existing ponds. Moments like this in the workplace inspire spontaneous collaboration with colleagues that can spark a creative solution to the tasks at hand. We can’t wait to see their new space take shape over the next few months and enjoy their patio.


Fiedler & Timmer Groundbreaking 008

Fiedler & Timmer Groundbreaking 023


Last week Lawmark Capital unveiled the exterior lighting project on the Financial Center.  Slingshot worked with KCL Engineering ( and Mike Lambert to elevate the visibility of the FC on the Des Moines Skyline. Over the next several months we will also renovate the lobby and front/rear entries.  We are excited as the FC building will become the office tower of choice for businesses.  Attached are photos from the Des Moines Register.FC night image FC image 2

Slingshot begins work on GDMP Offices

Last week the Greater Des Moines Partnership (GDMP) selected Lawmark and the 700 Locust (aka Partnership bldg) to be their new home after the Younkers fire forced them out last March. Slingshot is proud and excited to design their new home office.

Go to

Partnership Entry

420 Court | DSM Urban Regionalism

iowa-see-the-filming-location-of-the-1989-classic-field-of-dreams-in-dubuque-county-iowa-you-can-bat-on-the-field-or-take-a-guided-tour-of-the-surrounding-farmThis blog post is the finale after Dan’s previous 7 sessions identifying and explaining our view on a place specific and regional response to 420 Court Avenue.  I felt it important to not only recap the early sessions, but also set a high bar for Slingshot’s and my expectations for design in downtown Des Moines.  Greg.


420 Court Avenue

Seven weeks ago Slingshot + Reynolds Urban Design were invited to join Hubbell Realty in preparing a design solution for a developer initiated 420 Court Avenue Concept Request.  The Request was searching for proven teams and design concepts – not a financial pro forma.  Monday, February 24th, this evening, the City Council will be voting on Staff’s recommendation to approve the Knapp|HyVee team proposal.  Before you read any further below, I want to be clear as a long time downtown Des Moines urban architect, I’m excited and proud to see a major grocery store in downtown Des Moines.  Although I have many (way too many for this blog) opinions on where is the best location and what type of grocery store is most appropriate, the fact is we are on the cusp of securing a proven local grocery store for downtown.  This is very exciting and I wish them the utmost success which will do nothing but benefit all of us in downtown and all of Des Moines.

Our design team of Dennis Reynolds, Dan Drendel, Kyle Schleicher, Josh Williams, Matt Heires and myself were proud and excited to dig into the design problem.  We thoroughly enjoyed the engagement with Steve and Kris at Hubbell as we crafted a solution that not only would meet and work in the Des Moines market, but also be a unique response to the “Place” of 420 Court in Des Moines Iowa.  Through our Pullback process we were able to clearly and succinctly identify what we believed to be the main drivers for creating a Regional, place specific, solution for 420 Court Avenue.  Each session not only explained our concept further, but it also explained the particular regional topic.  I encourage you to read them if you are interested in learning more.

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

CAS /// Session #2 : The Courthouse is King

CAS /// Session #3 : Historic Buildings are Design Assets

CAS /// Session #4 : Adding Vibrant Urban Spaces

CAS /// Session #5 : Architecture Ideas Rooted in Place

CAS /// Session #6 : Developing the Urban Fabric

CAS /// Session #7 : Markers in Urban Space


Des Moines Urban Regionalism

Now that we know the staff recommended team for Council tonight, it is time for staff to begin digging into the specifics of the solution for 420 Court.  We believe this is also time for Des Moines (leaders, staff, non-architects, everyone) to raise the expectation and “bar” for our city design projects.  Solutions in the Des Moines urban fabric should be thoughtfully studied, conceptualized, scaled and detailed for the specific urban space they encounter.  Des Moines is a great place with it’s own identity and the new pieces of the built environment should explore, reinforce and expand this identity.

Although I’m not originally from Des Moines or Iowa, I made the choice to come here and stay here for a reason.  There are actually several reasons.  The history of Des Moines is fascinating and powerful.  Past and current leadership has/is shaping a multifaceted, strong, vibrant community.  The people are amazing.  The vast choices of opportunities for such a “right sized” community is unparalleled.  Lastly – I and Slingshot have been blessed to part of the impact in Des Moines the past 10 years.  Thank you.

I passionately believe in Regional place specific design.  If I had my way (hah), all project designs in downtown from the $10 ones to the 100 millions dollar ones would need to prove and show how their solution is Des Moines is a regional, place specific solution.

Greg Wattier

CAS 420 /// Session #7 : Markers in Urban Space

The corner of 5th an Court is an exciting opportunity in Des Moines urban space.  At the same time, it should serve as a gathering place, an urban marker, identify the entry to the district + be deferential to Courthouse.

All of these goals for the articulation of the corner of a building can be tough to integrate into one urban space + one architectural idea.  All design tells a story + speaks to the people that interact with it.  We must always set our goals for design with intention, purpose + authenticity.

420 Corner


Our new public Pocket Plaza space at the SE corner of 5th and Court will be an integral part of the way-finding network downtown with the completion of our Beacon.  The Beacon will be a vertical, internally-lit, passive cooling tower cloaked in art.  The tower will serve as a prominent urban marker seen on 5th from the north and south.  Pedestrians walking in the area will easily perceive this as the entry + identity to the west end of the Court Avenue District.



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.

CAS 420 /// Session #6 : Developing the Urban Fabric

How can the patterns of an urban area impact development of a specific site?



Before you design an urban space, it is critical to understand how the city works + where city planning is going.  Solutions that engage with the urban fabric must reinforce the existing city + the future planned city as well as the flow of people (automotive, bicycle, public transportation, pedestrian).  Prior to considering the site + even the adjacent streets cape, we diagram the adjacent city fabric.  We look for nodes where views + circulation terminate.  We look for auto + pedestrian traffic patterns.  We look for growth, momentum, energy + successful spaces.  Then we look for ways to strengthen + connect to the positive aspects of the urban context.

420 Court Avenue stands as the last remaining full block of vacant land along Court Avenue at the terminus of Court to 5th Avenue.  It presents a significant urban marker opportunity at 5th and Court.  The design fabric of the west side of downtown has developed three significant east west zones – Western Gateway, Walnut Street Corridor and the Court Avenue Entertainment District.  These zones stack and shift off each other in the plan of the city, but so far lack strong connection + overlap.  The north/south connections between the zones are crucial as we weave our City into a more walkable environment.  In the 5th street  redevelopment plans, it is proposed to revert 5th to a two way street thus enabling a strong north/south connection between Walnut Street Corridor and Court Avenue.  The 420 site, and in particular the NW corner, will serve as a vertical placemaking marker to introduce Court Avenue on the west side and can offer a place of respite at the foot of the Court House.

Our design fully embraces this understanding in the design of our Pocket Plaza.  More on this tomorrow!



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.

CAS 420 /// Session #5 : Architecture Ideas Rooted In Place

How can the specificity of place + history influence architectural form-making?



Before we began understanding the current context and influences surrounding 420 Court, we needed to connect to the history of Court Avenue.  As a starting point, we focused on the 1901 Sanborn map to help us understand the turn of the century downtown influences and how they shaped the lot at 420 and surrounding context.  Full quarter block buildings were built on the northern portion of the site along Court with warehouse buildings south to support two rail lines.  The Union RR lines once sliced through the site but are no longer present.  The Pacific RR lines are still in use along the south side of the historic Depot Building.



420 Court Avenue is a substantial project which must relate to its surroundings and context with sensitivity + precision.  Our 3d diagram explains several big, yet clear concepts.  First, the quarter block masonry massing on Court is the proper submissive gesture to the historic Court House with the remaining portions of the north buildings quietly filling their quarter blocks.  A full block building at 420 would throw off the hierarchy and rhythm of Court Avenue. It is important historically + functionally to split the north buildings with a ”breath” creating connectivity between the Public Private Court + Court Avenue.


With over 300 cars parking in the garage, the congestion + volume should only be handled off of 5th at Cherry intersection.  We also plan to hide all the dumpsters under the ramp facing the drive aisle of the Public Private Court, north side of the garage.


The south building is designed with residential units wrapping the garage + well detailed walk up residential set just above street level.  We use the opportunity to nod to the railroad system by breaking down our east and west massing and finish with a playful elevation pattern located at and reminiscent of the rails slicing through the block.  The last move is to properly respect + honor the historic Depot.  Our project proposes a small scale street between the Depot + our residences.  We also create a two story masonry mass relating to the Depot with a cedar clad apartment “flat” mass set back and sliding above.



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.

CAS 420 /// Session #4 : Adding Vibrant Urban Spaces

What type of public space can be provided for an already strong urban neighborhood that will also increase demand for the commercial spaces?



One of the great successes in the Court Avenue Entertainment district is the Farmers Market.  We envision the opportunity to allow the Market to expand into our Public/Private Court.  First floor tenant spaces + restaurants will be able to engage with the Court + varied programming uses in the space.  From Court Avenue, pedestrians will be welcomed into the interior green space by pavement markings + benches at the ground plane.  The space between the two masonry mass buildings will also be activated above by several tenant balconies overhanging the pedestrian path.


Concept Diagram


Proposed Site Plan

Our current design proposes the concept of a large screen for light art and/or public movies on the north side of the garage + a ground scape crafted with seating areas, greenery + well defined materials.  We hope to see events in the this space radiating out to Court Avenue, 5th + 4th.  A public private court at this location is an urban opportunity to create a unique + active public space for gathering, programming special events + off-street outdoor dining.


Ground Level Perspective


Public Private Court from above


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.

CAS 420 /// Session #3 : Historic Buildings are Design Assets

The existing parking lot at 420 Court Avenue provides expanded vantage points of adjacent historic buildings.  How can the experience of viewing these buildings be maintained or enhanced when infill development replaces the surface parking?



While there are many unique qualities to the adjacent properties of 420 Court Avenue, there are current views of the adjacent historic properties we need to honor + redefine.  Knowing we will interrupt the current view corridors, we are seeking to create new, more defined views.

Our 420 Court proposal, and our suggestion for the future mixed use project at 422 Walnut, will not fill the corner with building but instead offer an open, well activated, public Pocket Plaza. By carving out these corners, wider views can be experienced + space for gathering is offered at the foot of the courthouse.  Preserving the view of the courthouse overlays with the concepts of hierarchy + urban rhythm discussed in CAS 420 /// Session #2.  Images from the previous post also explain/explore the increased view angle afforded by carving out the corner of the buildings facing the courthouse.


Today the view of the depot from Court avenue is across an open parking lot.  This building at the South end of the 420 site is a well-detailed, urban, passenger depot with large arched masonry openings to the North.  It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  When originally built, the North elevation faced a street where passengers may have been picked up after their journey.  We think it is important to create active urban space between the new development + the depot.  In the proposed design, the views of the depot will be more strategic as the depot proudly creates an edge to our new, small, one-way street.  The massing of the proposed building responds to the depot with a masonry base of similar scale/proportion + upper wood-clad massing slightly set back to not overpower the depot.


Existing Depot


Proposed Depot Street


Depot Street from 5th


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.

CAS 420 /// Session #2 : The Courthouse is King

One critical question for the 420 Court site:  What is the correct solution for inserting new architecture into the urban fabric of Court Avenue?



The masonry buildings of court avenue establish a scale + character that defines the street.  Each building facade on court avenue is subtle + unique while completely deferring prominence to the courthouse.  The hierarchy Court Avenue as an urban space is defined by the axial termination at the courthouse.  Every farmer’s market image is identifiable to Des Moines when the courthouse is in the frame.


Starting with 100 Court to the east, the historical precedent of massing patterning along Court Avenue is quarter block buildings + alley ways.  The 2008 development at the SE intersection of 4th street and Court Avenue recognized and executed this pattern.  Our design continues this pattern along Court Avenue + also acknowledges the horizontal datum first established by the Spaghetti Works building, continued in the 2008 development + further continued in our design solution.


It is key in the design of 420 Court Avenue to interact with the historic rhythm + character of the street.  The quarter-block elevations that face Court Avenue are key to infilling the block.  A full block elevation would throw off the rhythm + hierarchy currently present in the street.  We chose to develop two masonry masses that face the street + establish aperture in ways that tie back to the other historic buildings on the street.  The balcony slots (that also conceal mechanical louvers) + the shifting out of the corner facing the courthouse are more modern moves that will add to the identity of this building in a subtle way that does not compete with the prominence of the courthouse.


Historic Courthouse View


Existing Courthouse View


Proposed Courthouse View


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.

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.  

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.

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


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.


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)