The Iowa Architectural Foundation (IAF) was founded in 1989 by a group of people interested in pursuing methods to fund an Architecture in the Schools program. The first organizational meeting was held on August 23, 1988, at which time the initial Board of Trustees were elected into office, bylaws were adopted, and bank authorizations were signed. The Foundation received federal tax exemption by the Internal Revenue Service in 1989.

The Foundation sponsored the broadcast of Skyscraper on Iowa Public Television in 1990 and in 1991 received a grant to develop social studies curriculum on architectural heritage for 2nd grade students in the West Des Moines School District.

In 1994, “History for Lunch” public walking tours began and in 1995 the Foundation sponsored the Iowa Community Design Assistance Team (ICDAT), a project of the Iowa State University Department of Architecture.

By 1996, social studies curriculum for 3rd grade students in Des Moines Public Schools was developed and tested and teacher development workshops were conducted in three communities throughout Iowa.

The Iowa Community Design Assistance Team officially transferred to the IAF in 2001 and was renamed the Community Design Program (CDP). Walking Tours transitioned to evening, event based public tours in 2002 and later to evening, summer tours and their own committee in 2008. The committee transitioned into the Architecture in the Community committee in 2011 to conduct more expansive public programs for adults.

2014 celebrated 25 years of IAF programs. Over the course of this time, the Foundation has reached almost every corner of the state through its public outreach programs. Over 6,000 people have participated in student and adult architecture walking tours, over 27 communities have participated in the Community Design Program, and over 150 volunteers have donated countless hours to putting on IAF programs.

In 2015, the IAF brand and logo was updated and a new mission was adopted: Inspiring Appreciation for Architecture and Design in Everyone. With three volunteer committees: Architecture in the Community, Architecture in the Schools, and the Community Design Program, the IAF continues to prosper and grow and do good work promoting the value of architecture and design throughout the entire state of Iowa.

Between 2015 and 2019, the IAF sponsored motor coach and other tours to various points in Iowa. 2015 and 2016 both featured motor coach tours to Mason City to explore Prairie School Architecture; 2018 featured a collaborative event with Iowa Mid-Century Modern group: a tour of MCM homes in Oskaloosa. IAF also collaborated with the Des Moines Botanical Garden to present a program on MCM Landscape Architecture with renowned author, Ethne Clark. In 2019, IAF offered a motor coach tour from Des Moines to Dubuque, collaborating with Heritage Works and its seasoned tour leaders.

In 2018, Adventures in Architecture, a new one-week summer day camp, was introduced for 10–12-year-old students, in a collaboration with the Des Moines Social Club. The camp was offered again in 2019. In 2021, IAF collaborated with Des Moines Public Schools to offer the camp to a diverse group of middle school students at Central Campus. Campers engaged in the design process, visited professional offices, took architect-guided walking tours of Downtown Des Moines and visited job sites. They tackled architectural projects each day with the camp directors and on teams led by high school students from the ACE Mentor program. Additional volunteers representing interior design and construction companies enriched the student programs, helping the campers develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of their own community and the wider world.

Eat. Drink. Architecture., a combined pub crawl and architecture tour normally held in Des Moines as a fundraiser, expanded to Cedar Rapids in 2017. In 2018, the IAF celebrated the restoration of Mies van der Rohe-designed 601 Grand, (Catholic Pastoral Center, formerly American Federal S&L) with a very successful fundraising event called “Mies en Scène.” In 2019, for its 30th Anniversary, IAF celebrated the restoration of the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates with a benefit gala.

In 2019, IAF also launched a new awards program, the Community Enhancement Through Architecture & Design Awards (CETAD). The anniversary celebration gave the IAF a large audience to view and appreciate the introduction to the program. The CETAD awards honor the contributions of individuals, organizations, agencies or communities outside of the architectural profession, who have demonstrated consistent and effective leadership, vision and support for architecture, contributing to the betterment of Iowa communities. Since its inception the following entities have been recognized:
The Ruan Family
The City of Des Moines
The Greater Des Moines Partnership
The University of Iowa
Grinnell College
Mary & John Pappajohn
Principal Financial Group
Marc Moen/moengroup

The IAF’s goals for 2020 were lofty, but COVID 19 hit, and all but one program – a tour and lecture of Des Moines’ International style Butler Residence – had to be pivoted to virtual events. 2021 was little better, but allowed for a few in-person walking tours and a socially-distanced video screening at Capital Square. However, this change allowed the foundation to develop a great number of video tours, classes and programs, in short, a body of work that will be available to viewers for years to come on IAF’s YouTube channel. The 2020 and 2021 Community Enhancement Awards were limited to video productions with no gala, with the upside that they could be seen hundreds and thousands of times by a broad audience.

As part of its Equity Diversity and Inclusion programming, in 2020 IAF collaborated with Pyramid Theatre to celebrate the restoration and reopening of the Edna Griffin Building. It was originally planned as an in-person event honoring Edna Griffin, the Iowa civil rights activist, who made the historic 1948 sit-in at Katz Drug Store. Due to COVID 19, it had to be rescheduled as a virtual event video with a Zoom interactive, which turned out to be even more meaningful. It celebrated the re-use and craftsmanship that brought new life to an Iowa landmark, and helped new audiences experience the way that buildings speak with stories from the past, helping us understand our shared history.

With the understanding that virtual content would continue to be a vital way to reach our supporters, IAF created virtual sessions that expanded our audience beyond Iowa’s borders nationally and abroad. IAF produced a 3-part Prairie School in Iowa class on Zoom, a collaboration with the State Historic Preservation Office for Iowa’s 175th Anniversary.  It included video tours of the Park Inn Hotel and homes by Walter Burley Griffith and Frank Lloyd Wright. Following this were tours of the Mid- Century Homes of Iowa, a multi-session video series that featured both homeowner and architect discussions.

Another body of outstanding work that emerged from the necessity of lock down during COVID 19 was the ArchiTreasures series of short format videos, funded by BRAVO. The artfully created videos take you into the interiors of buildings you would rarely have access to, showcasing creative stories, histories, design features, colors, styles, textures and details. The original videos were celebrated with a launch at Capital Square. ArchiTreasures create a mystique and a deeper appreciation of Iowa’s architectural riches. IAF’s goal, over time, is to keep adding to this collection and build an archive by which to remember some of Iowa’s finest and most interesting architectural treasures, which are now shared on IAF’s YouTube channel.

As the lock down eased up, the ever-popular Architecture on the Move summer walking tours of downtown Des Moines returned, with audiences growing to pre-pandemic levels. Building off their success, IAF created and implemented a new South of MLK Tour for YPC, and offered tours for Des Moines Art Center docents and BOMA. Programming expanded to Cedar Rapids in 2022, with tours of two historic Louis Sullivan buildings and the popular Eat. Drink. Architecture. returned as an in-person event. The collaboration with Iowa Mid-Century Modern continued, with an in-person tour of four outstanding homes in Des Moines.

One of the most exciting recent developments is the establishment by AIA Iowa of the Impact Endowment. The annual proceeds from this new fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines will help support IAF programming into perpetuity. It is hoped that additional donors will contribute to the endowment, allowing for an expansion of programming in the future.