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Reaching New Heights Architectural Walking Tour on Oct. 10 Celebrates 1970s Architecture of Downtown Des Moines


Don’t miss Iowa Architectural Foundation’s(IAF) one-day-only architectural walking tour, Reaching New Heights — that celebrates iconic 1970s architecture downtown Des Moines. The outdoor tour on Saturday, Oct. 10, is part of modern architecture advocate Docomomo’s US National Tour Day, this year themed “The ’70s Turn 50.”

Reaching New Heights will highlight the three most prominent downtown Des Moines buildings of the 1970s — the Financial Center (1973-1974), the Ruan Center (1975) and the Civic Center (1979) and give you new insights as you hear the stories behind them. Architectural historian Jennifer Irsfeld James has developed this eye-opening tour after researching the 27-story Corporate International Style Financial Center, designed as the tallest building to be built in the city and state in 50 years. The Financial Center’s $21 million project investment and 25 stories, with underground parking, set a new standard for downtown development, boosting confidence in downtown investment.

Who were the main players who began to breathe life into downtown? What were the key influences? Learn this and more when you attend IAF’s Des Moines’ 70s Turn 50 tour in honor of Docomomo’s 2020 Tour Day.

Two socially distanced sidewalk tours will be given, at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and will last approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. Tours will depart from the Iowa Center for Architecture in Capital Square. Be sure to get your tickets ($30) on Eventbritein advance, as space is limited. Each tour will include a maximum of 15 people. Guides will wear face shields and head-microphones. Can’t attend? The tour is a fundraiser for IAF, but if you can’t attend, you can still make a donation at Funds help promote Iowa architectural programs for adults and children.

Background: In 1972 construction began on the state’s tallest skyscraper, the 25-story Financial Center—the first building in 50 years to rise above the previous record-holding 1924 brick Equitable Building. Announcement of the $21 million Financial Center—by Los Angeles-based skyscraper developers David H. and Gabriele Murdock working with the state’s largest bank, Iowa-Des Moines National Bank—brought renewed confidence in investing in downtown redevelopment during an era of suburban relocation. The Financial Center’s Corporate International Style architecture brought L.A. modernity to Des Moines as well as practical early “green” architecture: the soaring creamy colored vertical fins separating bronze tinted insulated windows provide solar shade and reduced heat gain.

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In 1975 the 34-story Cor-Ten steel Ruan Center opened, demonstrating ever more faith in the future of downtown Des Moines. The steel naturally rusts, providing the warm brown hue for the building deemed one of Iowa’s top works in the 20th century by AIA Iowa. This momentum led to Des Moines business leaders raising funds to build a new state-of-the-art performing arts facility, the concrete 1979 Civic Center, another building hailed for its unique architecture. Also along the tour route will be views and references to other buildings of note including former Central National Bank, EMC’s building at 7th and Mulberry, the Equitable Building, 1932 Iowa-Des Moines National Bank at 6th and Walnut, Des Moines Savings and Loan Building (later Midland Building) at 6th and Mulberry, among others.

For more information about the national organization Docomomo’s Tour Day, October 10, follow

About Iowa Architectural Foundation: The Iowa Architectural Foundation is a charitable organization founded in 1989 to promote the awareness and appreciation of architecture and design. The nonprofit pursues its mission through youth and adult educational/outreach programs, community design charrettes, architectural walking tours, an annual lecture series, and more. Visit Facebook or for more information.

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