Principal’s 711 High Street recognized by Master Builders Association

Architectural Record christened Principal’s corporate headquarters at 711 High Street the Building of the Decade the year it was built. By 1939-standards, the beautiful art deco building incorporated many unique and innovative systems. A letter written during construction predicted that 711 High’s pioneering design would stand the test of time for 75 years.

The author was not off base. It was 74 years after 711 High was complete that OPN Architects began to design what would be a transformative renovation and restoration of the iconic building. Construction began in 2015 and was complete in 2017, 78 years after the original building was first occupied by Principal employees.

Creating a modern facility to attract and retain world-class talent was as important to the current generation of Principal leadership as it was to their predecessors. OPN and our construction partners at DCI Group and Ryan Companies embraced this challenge. The resulting design thoughtfully blends history, modern design, and a cutting edge workplace strategy.

The team was honored for their work by the Master Builders of Iowa with a Masters Award in the Over $10 million category in February in Des Moines.

The association recognizes three projects — $1 to $5 million, $5 to $10 million and Over $10 million categories —  each year with a Masters Award for exceptional efforts of a construction team in executing the process of completing a project. Winners are selected because they exemplify good management skills, imagination, perseverance under unusual and challenging conditions, and/or innovative construction techniques.

Congratulations to each of the thousands of contractors, designers, and tradesmen and women who worked tirelessly on the project over the course of the last two years.

The fruit of their labors is a complete reinvention of Principal’s once out-dated corporate offices in Des Moines. The global investment company now has a headquarters to match its international purview.

The city-block size campus at 711 High was completely gutted and remodeled creating a space that will serve Principal for another 100 years while still respecting and restoring much of the art-deco materials and character.

The formerly single-story underwhelming lobby now leaves a spectacular first-impression with visitors and employees. The new design created a single four-story lobby at both of the two main entrances on first and third floors. A 60-foot high by 16-foot wide LED screen visually connects all four floors. Original green stone floors, travertine stone walls, and ornate brass and wood art deco elevators were preserved and celebrated by the new modern design.

Beyond the lobby, a gloriously open, light-filled atrium is a new heart for the campus. The renovation created a soaring three-story space by enclosing an original exterior courtyard and connecting three buildings with a glass dome. Original 1939 exterior stone walls anchor the new atrium and hearkens to the building’s rich history while open stairways and cantilevered glass-walled collaboration spaces create a contemporary space that pulls the building into modern times.