2016 Honor Award, Design-Build Institute of America, Mid-American Region
The design of Merchants Bonding Company’s new corporate headquarters in West Des Moines honors the firm’s history while simultaneously looking to and embracing the future. Merchants moved into the OPN-designed 50,000-square-foot facility in August 2015. The new, larger building replaces the former headquarters on Fleur Drive, and allows for a possible addition to the south. The employee spaces are in two wings that radiate from the central reception area.
“They were looking for an open, more inviting and welcoming environment for employees and clients,” says Nate Stieler, one of the architects who designed the building. “They also wanted it to be an exciting place to work, too.” In response to that request, the project team designed a spacious break room, adjacent training area — with retractable walls that allow for three configurations — and fitness center and locker rooms.
The break room features multiple seating options — booths, low and high top tables — as well as a bar with enough electrical outlets to accommodate monthly employee potlucks. An outdoor patio allows for socializing or working in warmer months.
The building has an open, transparent air. Two corridors create a visual connection through the entire building from east to west. Glass at either end lets the outside in.
Work stations are flexible, with small informal gathering places that inspire collaboration. President Larry Taylor wanted his employees to know that they could approach him at anytime, so OPN designed his corner office with glass walls and no door.
The transparent theme begins at the building’s entrance where Merchants’ leadership team wanted to leave visitors with a lasting first impression. This was accomplished with a striking fireplace in the reception area as well as a glass staircase and four glass-walled conference rooms. The lobby was also designed to showcase Merchants’ archives, from the first bond to news articles to the founder’s desk.
On the exterior, materials meld the modern with the past. A clean design is executed in brick. Biophilic design also informed finishing choices. Warm wood panels, the pattern, texture, and color of the carpet, and a rolled marble rock bed below the main stair bring nature to the interior. The lobby curtain walls frame views of the exterior landscaping, which was designed to provide texture and color year-round.
Sustainable methods were employed in the design, including all LED lighting and daylight harvesting.