EP Award Promo

Architectural Arts stretches the scope of millworking


Since its inception in 1998, Architectural Arts has propelled forward by focusing on its specialty, commercial millwork.

In order to continue on that upward slope, company president Ted Stuart has taken a different, more creative approach that has attracted a broader base of clients and new project opportunities, and in the process has also made work more exciting.

“Initially we got on our feet doing what we knew we could do well, and that was straight bid commercial millwork,” Stuart said. “That’s kind of a commodity product and not a lot of fun, so strategically we decided to diversify the company in order to grow it and to be able to add more creativity to benefit our clients.”

At Architectural Arts’ 40,000-square-foot office and workshop on East Ovid Avenue, its 70-person staff designs and manufactures cabinets, trim, molding and other products. But with the addition of Craig Fritzjunker, head of its creative environments division, the company now works with an expanded list of materials, such as glass and metal, rather than just wood and coryon, and utilized Fritzjunker’s creative talents to design museum exhibits, retail spaces, trade show exhibits, mall kiosks and other structures that break the mold of commercial millwork.

One of its more noticeable projects is at the Iowa Hall of Pride, where Fritzjunker collaborated with architect Jason Ramos to design and manufacture structures that highlight and showcase the museum’s exhibits. They used flexible design and a variety of materials in display cases, graphics, wood paneling and metal signs. The partnership may lead to other collaborative projects nationwide between Ramos and Architectural Arts.

Fritzjunker said it was one of the most fun projects he has ever worked on, and hopes Architectural Arts will have other opportunities in the future to design such “high-end, high-technology, interactive museum work.”

“It’s challenging, but the finished product, which you can see from the Iowa Hall of Pride, is well worth the effort,” he said.

Architectural Arts, under Fritzjunker’s guidance, has designed retail showcases at Anglo International in Clive, an Iowa Cubs informational kiosk at Principal Park and displays at the Des Moines Arts Festival.

Stuart said the evolution of Architectural Arts has taken it beyond a blue-collar business to operate “more like a white-collar ad agency.” The company works with its clients to conceptualize their projects, which are then designed and fabricated in the company’s workshop using pieces of state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment from Europe, which Stuart said allows the company to fabricate “almost anything that can be conceived of,” from metal displays to curved glass.

The company has had doors opened through its relationship with local contractors, as well as through projects such as the Iowa Hall of Pride. Most of its projects are based in the Midwest, though the company has tackled jobs on the East and West Coast and continues to attract interest nationwide.

The company recently completed an addition to its building and has room for one more building on its property before it’s forced to consider moving to a larger site.

“We’d like to continue to grow the business,” Stuart said. “We have the usual space problems that a growing business does. But we see our future, we hope, in the fun side of the business, which is more of the creative projects. As we’ve gained our reputation and expertise in this area, we can provide services beyond the millwork to our customers and provide more complete service to them.”

americanequity web 040123 300x250