As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail” – wise words for a project like The Outlets of Des Moines. Before ever reaching the drawing board, the owner and municipality underwent years of planning and coordination. When HFA was commissioned to design the project, its imagined form comprised a few broad objectives: The Outlets of Des Moines needed to be more than a retail center – it needed to be a destination. It required a unique spirit that identified with the rich culture and history of the American mid-west (of which the prairie style of architecture is a significant part). A visual scale that complimented the pedestrian shopper’s experience, while still providing retailers with desirable focal points to establish their presence and identity, was necessary.
Once an overall site plan was set, designing the architecture began the same way it always does- a piece at a time. First, a material palette was composed, and subsequently applied to various pedestrian-scale details. With each successive element designed, the project’s composition evolved into a sequence of pedestrian experiences. Details at eye level were given the utmost importance. Care was taken to sub-divide the overall project into distinct zones to give the shopper a sense of place. Tenant focal points and sign bands became backdrops of bold colors, setting the mood for zonal experiences. The genus loci became focused on transforming a fairly standard retail site plan into a memorable experience that keeps the shopper returning time and again.