Substance Architecture


Des Moines, Iowa

This 1,400 square foot project is a coffee house in the morning, a gelato shop in the afternoon, and a wine and hors d’oeuvre café in the evening. Housed in a 500,000 square foot office building designed by SOM in 1982, the shop’s transparent public faces are sandwiched between a highly trafficked sidewalk and a 45-degree angled, 8-story interior atrium. Visibility from the sidewalk and atrium were critical for its initial success.

Using illuminated Douglas fir like a stage backdrop, the small shop wraps the highly condensed kitchen/storage/restroom support core completely with tongue and groove wood planks. The 16-foot wood planks transition over doors and around the form in continuous strips to maximize concealing the openings and to keep the wood volume simple. The side island converts from a coffee condiment counter to a small bar for private events.

Inserted into the wood backdrop is a framed box of white solid surface material for coffee prep and miscellaneous equipment storage. LED light strips play off the 45-degree juxtaposition of the atrium volume. The restrained material palette and glowing wood provide a bright and effective backdrop for the multi-purpose shop as it transitions from coffee in the morning to wine in the evening.

Photography by Ben Easter


Merit Award - Excellence in Interior Architecture, 2016
American Institute of Architects - Central States Region


Iowa Architect, Summer 2017
Iowa Architect, Winter 2017

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