OPN honored for craft, design at AIA Iowa convention

OPN Architects was honored at the AIA Iowa convention on Sept. 22 for two projects. The first, a restoration of the historic Paramount Theatre in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was a recognition of the craftsmanship required to reconstruct and repair century-old finishes. The second praised the design of Delta Dental’s expansion of their corporate headquarters in Johnston.

OPN Architects received a Merit Award for the Delta Dental Insurance Headquarters’ Expansion. The two-story addition, completed in 2015, is situated on the east side of the existing building (designed by OPN in 2010) with eastern and western exposure to maximize views of the surrounding landscape. As the jury recognized, it is a “clean, logical addition with a restrained and thoughtful material palette that rises toward “Miesian” elegance.” The interiors are light and airy with carefully detailed brise soliel and porch that shade glass – providing occupants with expansive views to the landscape and protection from glare. On the exterior, terra cotta rainscreen plane walls mask conference rooms and support spaces. The opaque plane walls are contrasted by the large expanses of glass that provide views out during the day, appearing ethereal with the scrims shading the glass, and at night glow to reveal the interior functions for passersby. This project achieved LEED Gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The original design was also awarded a Merit Award by AIA Iowa.

Previously recognized with a 2014 Merit Award from the American Institute of Architects – Central States Region, a 2013 Honor Award by the American Institute of Architects – Iowa Chapter, and a 2013 Silver Award by the Reconstruction Awards – Building Design + Construction, the Paramount Theatre restoration was one of OPN’s post-flood projects. It received a Craft Award from AIA Iowa.

In June 2008, a devastating flood swept through this midwestern city. The theatre lay directly in its path and was flooded to an elevation of approximately eight feet above the main street level. All of the elements identified above were severely damaged by water, debris, and extended recovery efforts. The award jury called the project “an incredible combination of restoration, skilled artistry and community commitment at its apex. It clearly demonstrates a deep respect for the value of this building to its community and the craftsmanship of the past.” The faithful restoration required a thorough understanding of the original construction, the technology and techniques behind the craftsmanship, and the resources available today to re-create such work to the highest degree of authenticity. Some of the world’s most respected historic specialists were invited to join the design team to examine and restore the building’s historic features.

Ironically, the craft award was announced the same day as Cedar Rapids began flood preparation and mitigation efforts for another historic flood. Theatre staff prepared for the worst, enlisting volunteers to move all the seats from the first floor to the balcony. Fortunately, the city’s temporary flood walls held, the theatre remained unscathed, and volunteers were again put to work reinstalling seats in time for a previously scheduled concert less than one week after the river crested at the second-highest depth in history.

OPN is proud to have a history of design excellence. We believe our success is the result of a deliberate, sustained commitment to an open culture that nurtures excellence and new ideas. As a firm we are committed to the highest standards of professional practice and we enjoy the process and results of creating architecture that exceeds our clients’ expectations.