Des Moines has gained a reputation in recent years as one of the nation’s most photogenic cities.

And rightfully so.

For the past decade, Des Moines has been represented in publications around the world by two iconic images.

One is the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, where the most commonly reproduced view is of Spanish artist Juame Plensa’s 25-foot-tall “Nomade,” created from random stainless steel letters welded in the shape of a person sitting with knees drawn up to chest.

The other is the dramatic single span of the Principal Riverwalk’s Women of Achievement Bridge photographed from an angle that frames the down skyline.

Lurking not far from both images are public eyesores.

On the riverwalk, the offender is a rusty, paint-peeling railroad bridge south of the popular red trestle pedestrian bridge, which serves as a downstream counterpoint to the Women of Achievement bridge.

When viewed from Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, the rusting side rails of the railroad bridge are pretty much all you see upstream, because they largely obstruct all else.

I’m amazed that no one has been able to shame the railroad into applying a decent coat of paint to that ugly bridge – not the city; not Principal Financial Group, which shepherded the $60 million riverwalk effort; not even state government, which benefits hugely from the positive image created by the riverwalk.

While we’re at the river, let me mention two more eyesores. One is the old power station just below the Center Street dam. If that building needs to be there, they could at least put some decent covering around it. 

The other isn’t as much an eyesore as a problem in the making. A good portion of the beautiful paving blocks that were installed to make the walking surface near the river feel more like a patio are crumbling into gravel. Apparently, whatever kind of stone they used does not hold up well to the freeze-thaw cycles of Iowa winters.

The metro area has many other eyesores.

There are, for example, many strip malls that have fallen on hard times. Examples include the area along Fleur Drive between the Des Moines International Airport and the Wakonda Club and areas of East Fourteenth Street.

The old Sherwood Forest site in Urbandale is another example of a poorly maintained commercial area, as is the nearby Des Moines Ice Arena.

Another offender is the grain elevators on Park Avenue. There isn’t much you can do to enhance the harsh industrial look of a row of concrete silos, but I do wish the owners had the sense to plant trees or some other appropriate shrubbery on the acres of adjoining bare ground.

It’s amazing how a little landscaping can soften the appearance of even the nastiest eyesores.

After years of pleading and threatening, the owner of the long-vacant Ingersoll Theater finally installed sidewalk planters with foliage, as other nearby property owners did years ago. It makes a world of difference.

Downtown eyesores include the empty pit where east half of the old Younkers department store once stood and the now-empty Kaleidoscope Mall. Both are eventually expected to be resolved with new developments.

In my opinion, Des Moines’ worst visual monstrosity is on the western edge of downtown.  

Across Grand Avenue from the Pappajohn Sculpture Park is the city’s most fascinating building, Krause Gentle Corp.’s $160 million corporate headquarters, designed by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano.

Much has been written about the unusual shape and structure of the six-story building.

Unfortunately, if you attempt to view it from Ingersoll Avenue, you won’t see much because a huge billboard at Eighteenth Street blocks the line of sight to both the building and the nearby sculpture garden.