Illuminating Design: Playing with Light at Des Moines Hilton Downtown
Everyone knows light is important to our everyday lives. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to do much of our day-to-day work or, for that matter, be productive after sunset. Light also allows designers to enhance the spaces we create. The tangible materials we work with – brick, steel, glass, wood, metal – can be all complemented and enhanced through the intentional use of light.
Hilton Des Moines Downtown in Des Moines, Iowa by DLR Group. Photo by Bruce Cole. When cast with daylight or illuminated by the hotel’s lighting elements in the evening, 3D textured panels recall the look of deconstructed wheat grain and offer a visual reference to Iowa’s agricultural roots.
Almost every designer tries to bring natural light into a space; and for designers such as myself, who focus much of their time on hospitality projects, lighting is a tool we use to create a dramatic and memorable guest experience. One of my recent projects at DLR Group is the new Hilton Des Moines Downtown, a prime example of how lighting can enhance a space or leave a memorable mark for visitors. The Hilton Des Moines Downtown is a 317,637-SF full-service convention hotel located at the edge of downtown Des Moines’ Iowa Events Center. To deliver a unique guest experience, DLR Group’s design team played with light in a variety of ways, both on the exterior architecture of the building and in the interior spaces.
For the hotel’s exterior façade, we utilized a series of 3D textured panels inspired by the look of a deconstructed wheat grain. When cast with daylight or illuminated by the hotel’s lighting elements in the evening, these panels are a visual reference to Iowa’s agricultural roots. Des Moines is fast becoming known as a part of the Silicon Prairie, and to evoke a theme of technology, we designed the window spacing of the guestroom tower in a random binary pattern that adds both playful aesthetic to the façade and suggests the image of a barcode.
The hotel’s transparent podium levels activate the urban street frontage and invite guests into its lobby and restaurant spaces. Our team made a point to use oversized glass openings that bathe the interior space in light, improving the overall feel of the space to enhance the guest experience. And while we focused in part on daylighting – working to ensure spaces were lit from the outside in – our design approach for the Des Moines Hilton Downtown, also flipped the script to create a kind of inside out lighting approach. Because people often gravitate towards the hotel lobby or bar to unwind after a long day’s work, and these hotel spaces tend to come to life at night, we used lighting to create a kind of lantern effect where guests can enjoy a “signature moment” as they mingle and socialize.
DLR Group’s work on the Hilton Des Moines Downtown is just one example of how we can use light to enhance our designs. Whether subtle or obvious, light allows designers to showcase the beauty of their work, enhancing the way people experience the spaces we create.
This article was originally printed in the Spring 2019 issue of iaarchitect, the official magazine of AIA Iowa.