Our Work

Iowa State Fairgrounds

Des Moines, Iowa

Confluence led the design and planning efforts for several key additions and enhancements to the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Expo Hill: Confluence was hired by the Iowa State Fair to develop a use for the Expo-Hill site at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. This site is home to the Mid-American wind turbine and has 50 feet of grade change from top to bottom. The program included creating an exhibit space, highlighting solar energy, accessible pedestrian circulation and sustainability.

In conjunction with the Facilities Operations Director at the Fair, we collectively developed a unique stage structure for the top of the hill. The views from within this structure are some of the best in the state. We also worked to create an arrival experience to highlight the structure itself. The walking path for the grand staircase leads you to this magnificent structure that will be revealed to the public this year at the Iowa State Fair.

The solar and sustainability components of this site were developed in conjunction with Mid-American Energy and Power Film. We aided in the design of the cooling benches that include solar powered fans blowing on the seats. Glowing light cubes that are 100% powered by the sun were also developed and serve as visual site elements which highlight the walkway and complete the modern approach to Expo-Hill. We look forward to showcasing space to the over 1,000,000 visitors expected in 2012 and years to come.

Heritage Stage (Susan Knapp Amphitheater): Confluence led the site planning and design for the creation of the Heritage Stage (later renamed the Susan Knapp Amphitheater).  Our team of landscape architects developed plans for proposed seating areas and pedestrian circulation, while also providing access to a loading dock for trailers and busses. The amphitheater seats 3,000 and accommodates up to 5,000 fairgoers. The site also features a restroom facility, dressing rooms, and storage areas.

Legacy Terrace: The Iowa State Fairgrounds retained Confluence to create a plaza space that would recognize past contributors to the fair. Located at the main entrance to the Grandstand, Legacy Terrace is composed of forms and patterns that are respectful of the adjacent architecture, allowing for both active and passive use. The central spine of the plaza is the donor recognition walk, which terminates with an informational kiosk. Radiating from the walk is a series of garden spaces, benches and flagpoles. Two existing hackberry trees were saved during construction and provide much needed shade to fair-goers and pedestrians alike.

The water-jet fountain is an active element of the space. Children walk beneath the shooting jets and can stand near the water source to get a refreshing splash.  Our team worked very closely with the fair staff to mesh these improvements with existing site elements, while also meeting the schedule and keeping overall project costs within budget.

Pella Plaza: The plaza design was a collaborative effort between Brian Clark and Rhonda Martin of Bob Lenc. It represents a metaphorical gesture of the Iowa landscape. The eastern half of the space represents the meandering river corridors that border the state while the western half of the plaza signifies the Jeffersonian grid.  These two collide at water features in the central portion of the space. The Pella Corporation is a proud sponsor of the plaza space, requesting the creation of a garden space unlike any other at the Iowa State Fair.

One of the most challenging factors was providing an accessible route up 15’ of grade change to the upper plaza/flag area. The serpentine path reflects the length of path required to achieve this, as well as representing the flowing nature of Iowa’s meandering waterways.

During the fair, the plaza is filled with children splashing, parents resting and others watching what truly makes the Iowa State Fair unique: the people of Iowa. County flags provide a ceremonious focal point at the east end of the plaza, allowing pedestrians to access the bosque of flagpoles by way of the secondary ‘river’ walk that also provides ADA compliant inclines to traverse the slope. Although the budget was limited, the design team made use of indigenous stone and native prairie and plant material, and utilized cost-effective equipment to create the mist fountain feature.