2013 Merit Award, American Institute of Architects, Iowa Chapter
Delta Dental of Iowa relocated their corporate headquarters to a new office building on a highly-visible site along Interstate 80. Company leadership selected this site with the intention that the building itself would become an economic branding and promotional device – architecture as advertisement – aimed directly at the millions of motorists who travel this stretch of interstate each week.
The facility is located in a suburban office park with an extensive network of walking paths and is next to a landscaped pond. The new office building is designed to be energy-efficient, flexible, and expandable. Programmatically, it is organized into two volumes. One is an executive wing, containing private offices, a large board room, and an employee break/training room. The second houses open office space, managerial private offices, conference rooms, and support spaces. The two volumes are clearly articulated and linked by a day-lit public lobby. Also connecting the programmatic components is a north-south circulation spine dubbed “the superhighway” because all of the building’s essential functions are accessible from this path.
The exterior of the building is clad in a terra cotta rainscreen system; selected for its modularity, speed of installation, and visual warmth of the material. The terra cotta panel size sets up an organizational grid that is carried through the entire building. The dimensions became a driving force behind the proportions and rhythms utilized throughout the building, including the twelve foot wide by fourteen foot tall window module. This module is repeated around the entire building, and depending on the function of the space behind the window module, the glazing alternates between vision and spandrel glass.
In the open office area, the full height window wall reveals panoramic vistas of surrounding natural prairie landscapes and ponds, while private offices have similar framed views of these landscapes which become the “art” for the rooms. The alternating pattern of spandrel and vision glass found on the exterior private office walls translates to the interior design and landscape architecture. This solid-void pattern is repeated at the interior office partitions and reaches out into the landscape as formal rows of native grasses and crushed stone.
The southern façade, which faces the interstate, employs a louvered sun scrim. This screen rises from the ground to the parapet height, protecting the interior open office space from solar heat gain and glare, while providing ample daylighting. This feature also integrates the branding device where the company’s logo becomes a super graphic along the interstate, fulfilling this company’s vision.