NEUMANN MONSON ARCHITECTS

Stanley Center in Muscatine, IA
The Stanley Center’s Commitment to Muscatine

On September 17, the Stanley Center for Peace and Security will host a “Ground Healing” ceremony to kick off the construction of its new headquarters in Muscatine, Iowa. The project will renovate the former Musser Public Library while adhering to the rigorous standards of the Living Building Challenge (LBC). In addition to promoting sustainability, the LBC presents opportunities to engage the local community. Here, we explore the Stanley Center’s connection to Muscatine, its commitment to global education, and its plans to engage the community through the LBC.  

Why Muscatine?  

In 1956, Iowa natives Maxwell (Max) and Elizabeth (Betty) Stanley founded the Stanley Center. Max was a successful businessman, and Betty was a devoted philanthropist. They both had a deep interest in world peace and believed that collaboration and dialogue—through formal, country-to-country means and informational, person-to-person relationships—were key to solving global challenges like climate change, nuclear weapons, and mass violence. Muscatine was home to Max’s two global companies. By intentionally locating the Center there, the Stanley family was able to maintain its commitment to the local community while conducting global work.  

Max and Betty Stanley, Courtesy of the Stanley Center.

A History of Global Education  

Local programming has always been a key component of the Stanley Center’s mission. In 1971, the Center launched Project Enrichment, an initiative aimed at advancing awareness of international relations for students. Since then, the Center has expanded its local commitment through the Global Education program, which seeks to “foster inclusive dialogue, celebrate diverse perspectives, and promote equity to build a more peaceful and just world.” The Center accomplishes this work through several educational offerings. The Catherine Miller Explorer Award offers Muscatine teachers the opportunity to travel to a country of their choice and bring lessons back to their students. International Day, a partnership with the University of Iowa, educates Middle School students across Eastern Iowa on global human rights. The last program, the Inclusive Dialogue series, brings renowned authors to Muscatine to discuss contemporary issues. 

LBC Community Connections 

The Stanley Center’s new headquarters represents a new chapter in its history of community engagement. Unlike other green building initiatives that seek to “do less harm,” the LBC encourages truly restorative development that makes a positive impact on a global and local scale. Early in the design process, the Stanley Center surveyed the Muscatine community to gauge their needs. The results reflected a desire for a universally accessible building constructed from local materials. Other requests included public amenities like benches and Wi-Fi at street level. The survey responses drove design decisions that the Stanley Center made with Neumann Monson.  

The Stanley Center will form a partnership with its new neighbor, the Muscatine Center for Social Action (MCSA), a non-profit that provides homeless housing and other social services. To fulfill the requirements of the LBC, the Center will help MCSA better steward its water resources by upgrading their water fixtures with low-flow technology. The Center will also help with MCSA’s food pantry service by contributing fresh vegetables and herbs from the new facility’s community garden.  

Educating through the LBC  

Taking on the LBC allows the Stanley Center to offer new educational opportunities. After construction, the Center will host open houses and welcome school groups to tour and learn about the facility’s green technology. The Center will also create a publicly available LBC case study and other educational materials related to green design. Current updates on the building project are available on the Stanley Center’s website. Ultimately, this project presents an opportunity to encourage future developers to take on the LBC and reduces barriers for other organizations to participate. As the first Living Building in Iowa, the Stanley Center’s new headquarters will prove that sustainable design is possible anywhere.