Visitors to Des Moines, Iowa, have an unique opportunity to stop by the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates. It is a magnificently restored building that once housed the public library, and it now commemorates the agricultural accomplishments of Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Norman Borlaug. Guests staying at the West Valley Inn can reach this architectural wonder in about 10 minutes, with an easy, 8-mile drive to the east along Interstate 235.Adhering to historic preservation standards, the Hall of Laureates also incorporated green building practices into the restoration, making it a shining example of the goals that Dr. Borlaug set out to achieve decades ago. His Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 recognized his role as the Father of the Green Revolution and as a man who saved countless lives through his agricultural innovations. He later used that credibility to create the World Food Prize in 1986 to “recognize and inspire exceptional breakthrough achievements in increasing the quality, quantity and availability of food in the world.” Visitors today are inspired by the mission while walking through breathtaking architectural features.
The original stained-glass skylight in the structure contains 10,000 individual pieces of glass that are meticulously restored. Four lunette murals directly beneath the skylight tell their own stories. The murals portray agricultural scenes highlighting Dr. Borlaug’s life as he worked around the globe throughout the decades, and they are correlated with the varying times of day when visitors are present. Each corner of the room spotlights a metal grain sculpture, depicting the main crops that feed the world’s population: rice, wheat, corn and soy. A stained-glass window that is original to the building was created by the Franz Mayer Architectural Glass and Mosaic Company of Munich, Germany, a firm that began creating stained-glass structures in 1847. It is reached via a grand historic staircase.
Visitors can read inspirational quotes all around the rotunda that reflect the importance of food and the purpose of the World Food Prize. A quote from Dr. Borlaug over the grand staircase sums up the whole purpose of the building: “Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.”
Beginning this spring, tours are available to the general public by appointment only, with docents leading visitors through informational walks. Interactive educational exhibits are scheduled to open this summer, with regular daily admission hours and no appointments required. Admission is free.