About – Substance Architecture
About – Substance Architecture


Substance Architecture works to bring beauty to utility, pulling from diverse expertise to find clarity in complex design challenges. By meaningfully engaging with our clients, we create spaces that go beyond mere function to capture a deeper sense of place and purpose. Our approach explores many versions of an idea, carefully editing it to find a solution that often feels intuitive. We believe in less, but better.

Teamwork and curiosity are at our core—drawing upon the collective knowledge of everyone in our studio, listening to and actively engaging our clients, and integrating our consultants’ expertise to guide a design process that provides our clients with beautiful, purposeful, and affordable designs. This transparent and respectful approach has resulted in a broad portfolio of successfully built work and, more importantly, long-lasting relationships.

Office Culture

At the heart of our culture is the spirit of collaboration. We work hard to ensure that all team members have a voice that is heard—from the youngest intern to the most experienced principal. Our design standards are high and we achieve them through iteration, questioning, and revision; a process that involves every team member. We also recognize the importance of knowledge sharing between individuals with differing levels of experience or expertise.

The physical design of our studio reflects this approach. There are no private offices, and each workspace is the same. We work in a single room and have committed to ourselves that this will always be the case. This decision is based on the idea that every project is the product of many contributors, and we recognize that some of the most powerful training and mentorship opportunities occur during daily interactions with your co-workers.

We have been intentional about the size and location of our firm, valuing personal connections, a Midwestern ethos, and close collaboration between everyone in the firm. Our size allows us to provide creative and responsive service to each client, getting to know them, and the rest of our team, on a deeper, more personal level.

Building Performance / Sustainability

Substance Architecture recognizes the impacts the built environment has on the health and well-being of people and the planet. We strive to make positive contributions through our work. As a practice, we believe that sustainability is at the heart of design excellence. That is why we chose to align our office’s approach to sustainable design with the AIA’s Framework for Design Excellence.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

At Substance Architecture, we work diligently to create architectural environments for all kinds of activities and functions and all types of people. To create places that will serve the diversity of our clients’ needs and populations, we are committed to hiring a diverse staff and creating an environment where all perspectives are valued. We actively seek team members of all races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, ages, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Firm Awards

  • AIA Central States Region Emerging Professional Awards in 2018
  • Architect magazine Arch50 in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2019 (the program was retired in 2019)
  • DMACC Small Business Innovation Award, 2013
  • We have been recognized for our design work through the American Institute of Architects, the Chicago Athenaeum, and many other organizations. Our historic preservation work has been honored by the City of Des Moines and the State of Iowa.
  • For more information on our awards, visit the project pages.