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Design fresh, design local
By Jim Duncan
Remember when local developers thought the only way to impress people was to beg “big name” architects from out of state to design Des Moines buildings? Maybe the disappointments such outsiders delivered with the downtown library and the Wells Fargo Arena have ended those days forever. If not, the annual Institute of Architects (AIA) Iowa convention might have.
This year, four Des Moines firms swept AIA’s top awards (Excellence in Design Awards of Merit). Invision won for Stacey’s Prom, Bridal & Lingerie in Urbandale, which jurors declared “ a model and inspiration for what can be achieved in forgotten strip mall landscape.” BNIM Architects won the same award for Retreat, on a 70-acre, restored prairie in rural Iowa. Jurors lauded its “strong relationships between site and building.” HLKB Architecture took the same award for its Iowa State University (ISU) Multicultural Center, commended for its “masterful interior in spatial arrangement and detail.” Jurors added it “shows that even a modest commission can achieve spectacular results.” And Substance won for 322 Reinvented in Iowa City, which was called “a strong project which explores a new house model for the suburban house.”
Invision added two Awards of Honor: for the Whiteline Lofts on S.W. Fifth St., and for their own offices on Watson Powell Way. One juror called the lofts “a model project for urban redevelopment on the industrial fringe.” Another described Invision’s offices as “understated yet elegant.” OPN Architects, also won an Award of Honor for their own offices on Court Avenue, described as “a beautiful dialog between new and old.” RDG Planning & Design won two awards for sustainable designs. Their Cradle to Cradle for ISU’s Morrill Hall rehabilitation was praised for “amazing longevity” that should give another 100 years of life to a 100-year-old building. They also won a sustainability award for Hope for the Future in the ISU College of Design expansion. Jurors called the stack effect on that building a “beautiful articulation of sustainable architecture.”
Local artists also continued stifling old notions that regionalism quit mattering with Grant Wood. Two Des Moines artists reveal nuances of transition, as well as familiar themes, in their current exhibitions. Fred Truck’s anaglyphic and stereographic photography at Steven Vail Fine Arts (through Nov. 6) is providing visitors with a new way of looking at art. His anaglyphic conceptions stitch six photos together to present 360-degree panoramas of Des Moines’ Locust Tap, The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s rotunda, and art collector Jim Hubbell’s home. Truck described stereographic (3D) images, which require special glasses to view, as a “very active” niche in modern photography. “There are five or 10 new things every day on Flickr,” he said. That’s where Truck’s work has been viewed by 50,000 people this year.
Frank Hansen’s “World Class Poseur” at Moberg Gallery (through Nov. 13) shows new directions, some literally. Master painted Richard Kelley complimented Hansen’s “Dubuffet qualities” particularly in “The Boxing Monacle.” Several paintings are actually painted over older Hansen paintings. In some, the artist explores meditative abstractions without his usual cast of characters from Iowa‘s wild side. For the most part though, Hansen’s signature bug eaters, Medusas, “pimpwitches,” freaks, and whores still walk the Planet Frank.
Works of two new artists will join that of Kim Hutchinson for Olson-Larsen Galleries’ Art Walk exhibition beginning Friday. Brian Roberts is a repeat “Best in Show” winner at the Iowa Sculpture Festival who usually references agricultural architecture in his work. Lee Emma Running uses simple tools (projection, tracing, stenciling and cutting) to characterize her observations of ephemeral things like animal hair, leaf veins and root clusters. Hutchison is among a growing number of former Grand View University artists making a scene. She is a painter who sews, sourcing materials from garage sales cast-offs, to explore quest themes filled with mysterious pathways and doors. CV
Caption: Stacy’s Prom in Urbandale by Invision.