A large corporate office expansion on a 160 acre park-like campus in West Des Moines required a new cafeteria and training center to serve the growing employee population. The owner recognized that a cafeteria and event-training center often create the first impression for new employees and guests visiting the corporate campus. As a result, creating an event space with a civic scale and a strong connection to its landscaped surroundings was a priority. In addition, utilizing a material palette that was sympathetic with the existing campus was identified as a contextual response that would integrate the new building into the existing corporate campus. These client aspirations served as the impetus for the resulting building design.
In response, the design team generated a simple figurative strategy interpreting the building as a series of layers, or slices of space. These layers progress from the lightest, most public, and open slice facing the inner campus to the east, westward to the densest, most private, and closed slice along the perimeter service road.
The first slice is the “front porch” screened with lacy metal sunshades matching the metal trim color of the existing office architecture. The screens also act as vertical louvers framing views back into park-like campus and background office buildings while shielding views to the perimeter service road.
The second slice reveals the main dining/campus “town hall” event space. The porch, with its screening and deep overhang, allowed the glass to reach the lowest shading coefficient available - providing the clearest glass for views, daylight harvesting, and accurate color rendition.
The third slice passes through the second floor overlook breakout spaces, with five food service islands below.
The fourth slice moves into the more introverted spaces: The training center classrooms above, with the large commercial kitchen below.
The final fifth slice consists of a loggia and overhead mechanical bar. This layer was the result of integrating what would have been a more typical rooftop mechanical penthouse into a long linear sequence of mechanical air handling units, kitchen compressors, condensers, water heaters, and chillers. The resulting strip of hidden mechanical rooms intake and exhaust air through a uniform copper scrim screening louvers and openings as required to meet equipment needs. The loggia connects the new employee and visitor parking lot to the new corporate office building via a bridge over a basement level service dock.
Keeping with the figurative concept, the north and south circulation spaces form solid bookends to the slices of space. Formal stairways are reductively carved from these gray masses comprised of precast and MDF panels with gray floor tile. Each of the four corridor views terminate through 2-story glass onto brightly colored metal panels walls. Framed the surrounding monochromatic gray and white, the four panels create a strong focus of color and serve as orientation devices.