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Architecture in Greater Des Moines


Herbert Lewis Kruse Blunck is one of Des Moines’ best-known architecture firms. It has worked on such projects as the Iowa Events Center and the new Des Moines Public Library. The Des Moines Business Record visited last week with Kirk Blunck, the firm’s president and one of its principals, about his favorite local places and where he thinks architecture is most interesting in the metro area. Blunck has also been president of the Des Moines Art Center’s board of directors for four years.

Q: Where do you like to go when you have a few moments?

A: My favorite place, architecturally, is the collection of buildings that make up the Des Moines Art Center. I was there a few weeks ago for a dinner celebrating the renaming of the I.M. Pei building to the Cowles Kruidenier building. The dinner was outside on a fall evening and it was absolutely gorgeous. There were guests from New York City, Washington, D.C., and Wyoming who were there, and they all said that they had been a lot of places in their lives and that the meal was as beautiful as any they had ever had. The reflecting pool between the I.M. Pei building and the Richard Meier building at noon or in the early evening is absolutely wonderful.

Q: What other local buildings do you enjoy?

A: People who live here don’t realize that the visitors and architectural guests who come to Des Moines are usually astonished by the consistent quality of work that has been done all over the city. There has been a fairly close architectural community here for 25 years, and we look over one another’s work and keep striving to do better and better. The work that has been done here has been recognized nationally. I enjoy portions of the Drake campus. A year ago, the president of the American Institute of Architecture, Jim Cramer, came to Des Moines, and the two places he wanted to visit were the Art Center and Drake. Drake was the first place he wanted to visit.

Q: Where is the most active and interesting architecture being built today in the metro?

A: The Gateway West, which started with a commitment from Meredith, and Gateway East projects. After a long period of germination, they are truly going to happen much like they were envisioned 10 years ago. The John and Mary Pappajohn Higher Education Center. Part of its charge is to be as visible and transparent as possible. The new library, too, will be built with the same precept. It’s the idea that people who walk past and drive by those buildings will be reinvigorated. Those two buildings have absolutely taken that idea as far as they can.

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