Junction House

West Des Moines, Iowa
15,000 SF

Rypma Properties

Project Team
Tim Hickman

Junction House – Substance Architecture
Junction House – Substance Architecture

Junction House

Historic Valley Junction in West Des Moines, IA has seen limited new construction in recent decades, especially on its iconic 5th Street. Substance Architecture's challenge was to design a multi-story mixed-use building, Junction House, on a narrow urban infill lot that respected the historic context while offering affordable living spaces aligned with the owner's timeline and budget.

Our team questioned the idea that affordable, mixed-use housing might have to compromise on aesthetics. We set out to demonstrate that such housing could seamlessly blend into a historic neighborhood while providing appealing, efficient living spaces and modern amenities.

Junction House breathed new life into its historic neighborhood and demonstrated that affordable mixed-use housing can be thoughtfully designed, respectful of its surroundings, and have an identity of its own.

Balancing Form and Function: Efficiency Meets Aesthetics 

Approximately 4,000 square feet of prime retail space is available on the ground level, set against a backdrop of a charming exterior courtyard. Inside Junction House, simplicity is key. Each of the primarily one-bedroom and studio units provides comfortable, functional spaces and balconies that provide views of Valley Junction or the serene courtyard below. Expansive windows flood the spaces with light and forge a bond between indoor and outdoor environments.

By optimizing space, embracing historical context, and staying within budget, Junction House has become a standout example of thoughtful urban infill development that contributes positively to its community.

Aesthetic Integration with History

Respecting the historic character of Valley Junction was key, so we began by focusing on crafting an environment that fit its surroundings. The front of the building aligns with the other structures in the historic district, allowing the new to blend seamlessly with the old. To help balance the budget and desired aesthetic, the front of the building is constructed from brick, while the rest features weathering steel. Once fully patinated, the steel will give the structure a monochromatic appearance. This design decision stems from our desire to move away from the ubiquitous, multi-material facades common in many cities, aiming instead for a cohesive, unique identity.

"This neighborhood deserves more than a building that looks like it could be anywhere. We knew affordable, attractive, appealing livable spaces were possible. We wanted to prove they could get their own identity—and have it blend seamlessly into the historic neighborhood—on that same budget.”

Tim Hickman, Architect & Principal, Substance Architecture

Efficiency in Design and Delivery

One of the project's achievements lies in its ability to maintain alignment with the owner's budget throughout the design and construction phases. Managing project schedules and budgets is something Substance does very well. We own the project’s budget performance and routinely come in on budget. This project was delivered slightly under the budget we were given.

A Commitment to Collaboration

Substance believes all things are possible in design—including affordable housing that is visually appealing, functional, and on budget. A key to that is one of our core values: collaboration. This project, with its complexities and constraints, was a testament to how closely the design team worked with the owner and contractor. This collaborative spirit ensured that the design vision was not just preserved but also adapted and refined to meet practical requirements, timelines, and budgets.

Junction House – Substance Architecture

Floor plan - level 1

Junction House – Substance Architecture

Floor plan - levels 2 and 3

Junction House – Substance Architecture

Axonometric diagram


Mechanical Engineer (Design-Build)
Wyckoff Heating and Cooling
Electrical Engineer (Design-Build)
Michael Hammer Electrical Services
Plumbing Design (Design-Build)
Cook Plumbing
Structural Engineer
Civil Engineer
Civil Engineering Consultants
Landscape Architect
Genus Landscape Architects
Allender Butzke Engineers Inc
General Contractor
Hildreth Construction Services

Photography by Cory Gaffer