Jirsa Residence / substance

© Farshid Assassi

This 2,700 square foot loft apartment in downtown was designed for a single doctor interested in fine art and urban living. Organizationally, the loft was conceived as a simple, linear volume containing the major public spaces (kitchen, dining, living, media, and bedroom) served by a series of smaller, more private spaces (laundry, master bath, office, powder room, pantry, and guest bath). The public spaces were placed adjacent to the building’s exterior, providing each with sweeping views of the city skyline to the north and west, while the private spaces were placed next to the building’s core and separated from the main volume by a thick gallery wall.

Architect: substance
Location: Des Moines, Iowa, USA
Project Area: 2,700 sqf
Project Year: 2007
Photographs: Farshid Assassi/Assassi Productions

© Farshid Assassi

This plan arrangement provides the owner with a variety of spatial opportunities including the expansive, open volume one comes to expect from loft living; more intimate, contemplative rooms; and “in-between” spaces. For instance, upon entry from a generic public hallway, the visitor is compressed by a confined vestibule space, moves into a transitional entry gallery, and is finally released into the main public volume. This sequence was further elaborated through the use of lighting, artwork, and furnishings.


Simple ebony casework is used to subdivide the large, open volume and define functional subspaces. These low cabinets allow the volume to be understood as a single space when standing, but define subspaces (living room, dining room, etc.) when visitors sit. Subtle shifts in carpet coloration further enhance this subdivision. In addition, the thick gallery wall, which runs the full length of the loft, is broken into elements corresponding to these subspaces. As a result, each of these subspaces can be understood as a discrete “room” within the larger volume.


A reductive tact was taken throughout. Mechanical systems were removed from the large volume and concealed above the ceiling of the private, core spaces to eliminate the resulting clutter. A ribbon of translucent panels both delineates the open volume and integrates lighting and sprinkler systems creating a simplified ceiling plane. Even exposed door and cabinet hardware was minimized or eliminated where possible. The result is a raw, industrial space which contains a small set of highly finished, minimal objects which define the domestic program for the owner.

© Farshid Assassi
Cite: "Jirsa Residence / substance" 22 Jun 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=141290>
  • Soupdragon

    So the bedroom is a ‘major public space’?

    Suppose if you’re into that sort of thing…


  • Sha8

    It’s like living in a gallery, don’t find it really comfy

  • ariana roberts

    i love substance’s work. though the bedroom would be considered private, like others.