2016 Preservation at its Best, Large Commercial: American Enterprise Group
The American Republic Insurance Company building is an 8-story building located on the northeast corner of Sixth Avenue and Watson Powell Jr. Way in Des Moines.
Designed in 1965 by one of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP’s legendary principal architects, Gordon Bunshaft. The American Republic Insurance Company headquarters features floor-to-ceiling windows on the north and south ends, exposed precast concrete ceilings, eight exterior steel hinges to support its structure and a floor plan void of interior columns that might obstruct the view of the Des Moines skyline. In 1966, Life magazine call the building “the talk of the Midwest.”
The exposed precast concrete “T” and cast-in-place coffered floor structure is one of the defining characteristics of the building. The ductwork, lighting, and acoustical systems are meticulously integrated within the ceiling in a unique manner that forms an elegant ceiling expression, creating a glowing series of coffers of light. The most challenging aspect of the project was installing a fire protection sprinkler system in this intricate ceiling design. The project reconstructed the exposed ductwork and chamfered the top to allow the almost-completely concealed sprinkler system, lighting, and communication data cabling to be located on top of the duct.
The addition of life-safety systems as well as installation of new thermally broken windows while maintaining the character defining features resulted in a building that is both listed on the Nation register and is LEED Silver Certified.
The project was funded by State and Federal Historic Tax Credits, State of Iowa contributions, City of Des Moines contributions and private equity.
Preservation Iowa’s two most visible programs are Iowa’s Most Endangered and Preservation at Its Best. These two programs work well together because being listed as Most Endangered often times leads to awareness, a preservation effort, and a high-quality, award winning project.
The full list of Preservation Iowa’s 2016 Preservation at its Best award winners includes: