There’s No Place Like Home

Iowa Architectural Foundation’s walking tours offer a new look at the capital city.

When Dorothy found her way back from Oz, she had learned that the magic she sought had always been right there in her own backyard.

The Iowa Architectural Foundation (IAF) believes there’s a lot of magic right here in our own backyard, and the Foundation is on a mission to prove it.

In June, IAF’s annual Architecture on the Move walking tours returned to Des Moines. The tours are just one of the many events the IAF organizes to accomplish its goal of promoting the awareness and appreciation of architecture and design.

Claudia Cackler, IAF Executive Director, is especially excited about the tour program because it represents everything the Foundation seeks to accomplish. “The IAF embodies those things I hold dear—community engagement, volunteerism, collaboration, beauty, and good design. I believe that architecture really does matter to the quality of life in our communities.”

Cackler, a Des Moines native, has worked in various nonprofit roles in the Twin Cities and in Des Moines. When she assumed her position at the Foundation, she was eager to bring her organizational skills and fund-raising background to support the Foundation’s goals.

The Architecture on the Move walking tours, sponsored exclusively by Kum & Go, give participants the opportunity to see Des Moines through new eyes. Guided by architects and design professionals, the tours highlight both contemporary and historic architectural styles and buildings across the city.

“One of the wonderful features of these tours is that each one is unique. Depending on which route you follow, who’s leading the tour, you receive a slightly different view of the city,” Cackler explains.

The tours, held monthly through the summer (see “Architecture on the Move”), are open to anyone interested in architectural detail and by “intriguing facts and the historical significance of the buildings that shape the downtown skyline.” All proceeds from the tours support the Foundation’s public education programs.

Although the Architecture on the Move program is perhaps the most public face of the IAF, the Foundation is active year-round across the state. Some of the education programs possible as a result of the tour proceeds include the following:

  • Architecture in the Schools: tours for school groups
  • Architecture at the Library: educational events at local libraries
  • Teach the Teachers: continuing education courses, such as a look at math in architecture
  • Des Moines Public Schools programming: various classes, including Mexican Architecture and Architectural Photography
  • Community Design Program: a statewide program providing teams of architecture and design professionals to advise communities on developing a community image through signage, building facades, and more

Cackler says the IAF frequently organizes tours for groups outside the summer schedule, creating custom tour routes geared to each group and its specific interests.

When she arrived at IAF, “I was impressed that our programs are all carried out by a group of incredibly dedicated volunteers who give so generously of their time,” she says. That volunteer enthusiasm is integral to the Foundation’s success, and it plays a significant role in planning future projects. Everything from the lecture series to the community- planning projects relies on skilled volunteers.

That also led Cackler to pursue another unique project. “I saw a need for a self-guided tour for visitors who come to the Iowa Center for Architecture at Capital Square wanting to see the fine architecture and buildings of our capital city,” she explains.

Working with a team from Workiva in Ames, and with the assistance of DSM Hack and sponsorship by Kum & Go, Cackler is developing a mobile app for walking tours of Des Moines. “We’re in the process of editing the content and photos and determining who will provide the voice for the audio,” she says.

Maybe it’s our car-loving culture or our obsession with handheld electronic devices. Maybe it’s just that the familiar is underappreciated. Whatever the reason, most central Iowans pass through the streets of Des Moines oblivious to the history and architecture around them.

Like the Wizard of Oz, the Iowa Architectural Foundation is opening eyes to the beauty right here at home.

Architecture on the Move

  • July 14, August 11, September 8
  • Snacks and beverages begin at 5:00 p.m.
  • Tours begin at 5:30 p.m.
  • Tours leave from the Iowa Center for Architecture, 400 Locust Street, Suite 100, in Capital Square.
  • Reservations are recommended.
    Tours are limited to approximately 15 walkers on each route.


  • North:
    • Catholic Pastoral Center
    • AEG headquarters
    • Principal Financial Corporate Campus
    • And more
  • South:
    • Historic Court Avenue
    • The Warehouse District
    • The World Food Prize Building
    • Polk County Courthouse
  • East:
    • The East Village
    • Highlights of the City Beautiful Movement
    • The Riverwalk public buildings
  • West:
    • Temple for Performing Arts
    • Western Gateway area
    • The Krause Gateway Center