Substance Architecture


substance the real or essential part of anything; essence, reality, or basic matter.

substance is a collaborative design practice established in Des Moines, Iowa in 2005. The firm brings together the talent and expertise of some of the region’s most recognized design professionals engaged in the disciplines of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Design.

substance has a staff of eighteen seasoned professionals and can assemble and lead a diverse consultant team tailored to the demands of any project. As our name implies, we are committed to enduring architectural values rather than ephemeral notions of style. We are passionate about architecture and are committed to advancing the discipline in service to our clients.

substance is a team. We work together and draw upon the collective knowledge of everyone in our studio. This studio includes practitioners with over three decades of experience working side-by-side and in concert with recent architectural graduates and interns. The results are innovative design ideas tempered by experience and time tested techniques. Our team is augmented by respected consultants offering specific additional expertise. Moreover, our team always includes our clients as engaged, active participants.

substance takes pride in our commitment to collaboration – we listen. We listen to our clients and work with them to determine both their project’s functional needs and to discover their emotional aspirations and desires. In turn, we listen to our consultants and integrate their expertise to guide a design process which best meets our clients’ requirements. This collaborative, communication-rich approach effectively addresses the needs of projects and project teams of all scales and has resulted in a broad portfolio of effective building solutions ranging from an $85 million corporate campus to a $20,000 interior intervention and a wide range of project types in between.

substance is the most recognized architectural practice in Iowa since its founding in 2005. In just over 17 years the firm has received over 140 awards for design excellence including 64 from the American Institute of Architects. The firm has been recognized in National award programs sponsored by Architect, Contract, Custom Home (8), Faith and Form (2), Interior Design, and Residential Architect (2) magazines, and has received a National design award from the General Services Administration, thirteen prestigious American Architecture Awards and two International Architecture Awards from the Chicago Athenaeum. The firm’s proven design abilities are coupled with progressive business practices. In 2014, substance received a DMACC Small Business Award as the Most Innovative Company in Iowa. In 2015, 2016, 2017 and, again, in 2019, substance was recognized by Architect magazine as part of the Architect50 – the top 50 architecture firms in the United States in design, sustainability, and business.

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