Dorsey & Whitney

Location
Des Moines, Iowa
Year
2012; 2022
Size
15,000 SF

Client
Dorsey & Whitney

Project Team
Charvi Jagani
Matt Rodekamp

Dorsey & Whitney – Substance Architecture
Dorsey & Whitney – Substance Architecture

Dorsey & Whitney

When a long-serving dinner club vacated the top floors of the high-rise building in which they had their offices, this established law firm was presented the opportunity to relocate, expand, and refresh their workspace—not to mention take advantage of the excellent views provided by the highest leasable space between Chicago and Omaha.

It was clear the 15,000-square foot area required a complete reorganization to meet the firm's needs. The narrow building footprint, with a limited distance from the exterior wall to the building core, would require innovative spatial planning to convert the previously expansive and open supper club space into efficient private law offices while maintaining access to the views and showcasing the firm’s eclectic collection of significant regional artwork.

The solution made the most of the narrow footprint. By strategically placing the offices and public spaces around the perimeter, all staff and visitors are provided with access to daylight and expansive city views. Public circulation corridors terminate at wood-paneled art walls which screen shared work areas. The two floors were connected by an internal granite stair, enhancing the flow between the reception area on the 41st floor and the Board Room on the 40th. High-quality materials and finishes, such as Douglas fir wood paneling and granite tile flooring in public spaces are further elevated by one of the best views in Des Moines.

Ten years later, as the firm’s success led to continued growth, Substance Architecture assisted in converting what had been the library into much-needed conference space; provided secure separation between public and private spaces; and refreshed finishes including carpet and paint.

Location
Des Moines, Iowa
Year
2012; 2022
Size
15,000 SF

Client
Dorsey & Whitney

Project Team
Charvi Jagani
Matt Rodekamp

Maximizing a Compact Footprint

Transforming the former supper club into a law office required a holistic reimagining of space. Substance’s solution redefined how the office functioned and provided a more equitable environment for all. By focusing office and public spaces on the perimeter, Substance gave full access to daylight and views to everyone. Offices of two different sizes were implemented throughout with support staff in between. This layout also allowed the core to house necessary support spaces, effectively utilizing every available inch of the office. The two floors were connected via an internal granite stair providing client access from the reception space on the 41st floor to the boardroom space on the 40th floor.

This project was one of the first to challenge previous law firm trends of large offices with ample internal meeting space. Space dedicated to internal libraries was also reduced as technology improved. The result still placed private offices on the exterior walls but also allowed for shared space including reception and conference rooms to access daylight and breathtaking views.

Dorsey & Whitney – Substance Architecture

Floor plans

Navigating Space with Art

One of the most distinctive features of the Dorsey & Whitney office is the integration of artwork as a functional element in wayfinding. Strategically placed at the end of each corridor, art is used as both a visual end and a navigational aid, seamlessly marrying form and function. This creative approach adds an artistic narrative to the office, transforming everyday routes into an immersive experience and underscoring the firm's commitment to supporting regional artists.

Client-Centric and Adaptive Approach

This project is a testament to Substance's client-centric approach and building client relationships based on trust. Substance’s design process was informed by a deep understanding of Dorsey & Whitney’s business, gained from more than three decades of collaboration on multiple projects. Substance has continued to adapt to Dorsey & Whitney’s evolving needs, spatial requirements, and industry and technology trends. This understanding, amid decades of successful projects together, has built a solid foundation for ongoing collaboration and innovation in design.

"Transforming the top floors of a high-rise into a modern law office was not just about architectural expertise; it was about envisioning the future of workspace design."

Matt Rodekamp, Architect & Principal, Substance Architecture

Consultants

Mechanical Engineer
Baker Group
Electrical Engineer
Baker Electric
Structural Engineer
KPFF (formerly Saul Engineering)
Custom Millwork
RCS Millwork
General Contractor
Ryan Companies US, Inc.

Photography by Paul Crosby Architectural Photography