Cowles Commons, Des Moines, IA

Start Date: 2008

Completion Dates: 2015


Des Moines Performing Arts, client

RDG Planning & Design, local landscape architect

Cal Lewis, architect

Jim Campbell, artist

Fluidity Design, fountain design

Jim Conti, lighting design

Urban Trees and Soils, tree consultant


above Image and below image 1- The Des Moines Register

below image 2 - Ken Smith

A $12 million redevelopment to revitalize Des Moines’ 2.5-acre historic square. The new Cowles Commons is a flexible use space designed to support a range of downtown programs and activities ranging from daily use to outdoor markets, concerts, performing arts productions, special events and downtown civic space celebrations.


The design juxtaposed two alignments to organize the space. One alignment is the downtown grid aligned with the river and the other the greater city grid based on the Jefferson national survey. A boldly striped plaza of red brick and stone aligned with the diagonal alignment and a new interactive fountain are the centerpiece of the design. Framing both sides of the plaza are ovoid-shaped gardens planted with native Oak and Hickory and prairie grasses and wildflowers.  Low seat walls are inscribed with peace quotes.  Artist Jim Campbell was commissioned to create a major new environmental light sculpture.

Cowles Commons: Map and Key Features,

The Des Moines Register, June 12, 2015

Cowles Commons: Tour the New City Center,

The Des Moines Register, June 10, 2015