One of the oldest neighborhoods in Des Moines, Iowa, is the Court Avenue Historic District. In recent years, the area has undergone a transformation, becoming a haven for restaurants, nightlife, and loft-style living as the city lures people, especially young people, back to the downtown core. But while the district's waterfront site provides everything from resident-friendly running paths to picturesque views of the area's historic Beaux Arts architecture, it also brings with it the threat of rising waters from the flood-prone Des Moines River.

Enter local firm Substance Architecture, which managed to combine flood control with high design with its pump station on the city's new Principal Riverwalk. (Substance also completed an adjacent cafe and pavilion three years prior.) The station contains $5.5 million worth of infrastructure in a 2,040-square-foot structure that helps to control the increasingly frequent 100- and 500-year flood events that happen in the area. More opaque than its glassed-in cafe neighbor, the structure still presents a welcoming face to the neighborhood through the incorporation of site-specific works from artist Jun Kaneko. Proof that infrastructure can be made better through design..

Project Credits

Entrant/Architect Substance Architecture
General Contractor Larson and Larson
Size 2,040 square feet
Cost $1 million (enclosure)