Substance Architecture

Capturing An Artist's Vision: A Monumental Journey

Des Moines, Iowa

A Monumental Journey is a sculpture by renowned artist Kerry James Marshall celebrating the legacy of African American lawyers, who, in 1925, founded the National Bar Association, dedicated to civil rights, justice and equality in the legal system. The architect collaborated with artist Kerry James Marshall to achieve the colossal, geometric sculpture. The shape was inspired by the form of the African talking drums with one drum precariously stacked upon the other, representing the notion of communication among diverse people and a legal system, while not perfect, that strives to be balanced. The sculpture stands 30 feet tall - embodying a sense of monumentality.

The sculpture is made of bricks, to represent the feeling of weight and balance expressed in the piece. The stacking method of laying bricks also related to the overall composition. The manganese iron spot brick chosen has a rich texture and tones of grey, with a subtle shine due to the iron in the clay. To coordinate brick installation, each brick was modeled into a drawing software to explore best pattern solutions and laying starting points. An impressive steel structure was fabricated to support the brick within this complicated tapered and suspended shape. Every brick was custom made and hand-cut in order to be used in this application. The short edges of the brick were shaved to follow the circular configuration of the bricks, while the corner edge was trimmed to smooth the exterior geometry of the sculpture.

Photo of Kerry James Marshall courtesy of Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation


Excellence in Design Award, 2022
American Institute of Architects - Iowa Chapter

Best in Class Award, 2021
Brick Industry Association

Merit Award - AISC IDEAS2, 2021
American Institute of Steel Construction

Honor Award-Small Project, 2019
American Institute of Architects - Central States Region

Public Art Network Year in Review, 2019
Americans for the Arts

Impact Award, 2019
American Institute of Architects - Iowa Chapter

Grand Award, 2018
Masonry Institute of Iowa

Excellence in Craft Award, 2018
American Institute of Architects - Iowa Chapter


Iowa Architect, Winter 2023
Modern Steel Construction, May 2021
Iowa Architect, Summer 2019
Iowa Architect, Fall 2018

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