‘the kauffman center for the performing arts’ by moshe safdie, kansas city, missouri
images © tim hursley
construction is now complete for kansas city’s kauffman center for performing arts by international firm moshe safdie and associates.
set to open to the public on september 16, 2011, the facility will become home to ballet, contemporary dance, various genres of music,
broadway productions and the like. the iconic building contains cutting edge technology providing artists a premier space to present their work.
a sweeping curtain wall along the southwest facade allows abundant natural light to enter a large atrium space, the
brandmeyer great hall. the buildings dominant shell forms contain two large auditoriums, the muriel kauffman theatre and helzberg hall.
architectural details provide advanced acoustic elements for high quality performances and ample seating for spectators.
the glazed lobby encourages social gathering in the spaces located between the two auditoriums while offering sweeping
views of the city. multiple balconies overlooking the atrium connect to the various mezzanine levels within the theaters.
this arrangement allows patrons to easily leave their seat in the audience to enjoy the view during intermissions.
muriel kauffman theatre interior
helzberg hall interior
section through muriel kauffman theatre
image courtesy of safdie associates
section through helzberg hall
image courtesy of safdie associates
architect: moshe safdie / safdie architects
total square footage: 285,000 square feet
muriel kauffman theatre: 18,900-square-foot house
helzberg hall: 16,800-square-foot house
brandmeyer great hall: 15,000 square feet
performing arts center terrace: 113,000 square feet
offices for the kauffman center staff: 7,000 square feet
1,000-car garage, owned and operated by the city of kansas city, mo
shared backstage facilities: dressing accommodations for over 250 performers, 11 rehearsal and warm-up rooms,
40,000 square feet of glass
10.8 million pounds of structural steel
25,000 cubic yards of concrete
1.93 million pounds of plaster
27 steel cables, each holding up to 500,000 pounds of force
associate architect: bnim architects
acoustics: nagata acoustics
theatre design: theatre projects consultants
structural engineer: arup usa, inc.
local structural engineer: structural engineering associates, inc.
mep/fire protection engineers: arup usa, inc.
local mep engineers: wl cassell & associates, inc.
project manager: land capital corporation
general contractor: j.e. dunn construction
civil engineer: taliaferro and browne, inc.
security: m-e engineers, inc.
landscape architect: reed hilderbrand associates, inc.
sound: engineering harmonics, inc.
lighting: lam partners, inc.
muriel kauffman theatre
square footage: 18,900-square-foot house
seating capacity: 1,800 seats
stage: 5,000-square-foot stage; width of stage opening may be adjusted from 40’-50’
orchestra pit: up to 1,300 square feet; accommodates as many as 96 musicians
features & systems: 73’9” fly tower accommodates scenery up to 2,000 lbs. and 30’ tall. fully walk-able rigging
grid is accessible by stairs, ladders, and elevator. retractable acoustic banner system allows for acoustical adjustments
accommodating both small and large-scale productions. stage curtain contains motorized counterweight lineset;
center and intermediate splits allow for motorized split travel or guillotine opening
square footage: 16,800-square-foot house
seating capacity: 1,600 seats
stage: 2,700 square feet, including six lifts which form an adjustable riser system
pipe organ: 79 stops, 102 ranks, 5,548 pipes; custom-designed mechanical action organ in the french romantic tradition,
built by quebec firm casavant frères
features & systems: fixed acoustical canopy above the stage. retractable banner system included in side walls and above
fixed canopy. six 1,000-pound point hoist systems to hang custom curved trusses. five skylights allow natural daylight to
filter into hall.
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Architect’s Statement: Moshe Safdie
The opportunity to design a major new performing arts center was precipitated by two
significant decisions: the selection of an extraordinary site crowning the escarpment
overlooking the historic warehouse district and the new entertainment district, affording
a 180° view of the horizon; and the decision to construct two dedicated halls for
symphony, ballet, opera, and theater.
Downtown Kansas City, set upon a plateau, extends southwards towards an escarpment
from where it descends, opening to an expansive view, which is further accentuated by
the flat prairie landscape. To the north, one sees the drama of the downtown skyline
with its grid of streets framing the property and the Kansas City Convention Center.
I am a believer that the site of a project always holds the secret for its design concept.
Walking around, I was compelled by the dramatic view to the south. Thus, I placed the
two performance halls to face south, integrated and connected by a single great
lobby—an expansive glazed porch contained by a glass tent-like structure. The drop in
the land towards the south allowed us to include a new road that serves as the drop-off
point and leads to a large underground parking garage on top of which sits a park. From
the garage and the drop-off levels, the public ascends the grand stair to the great hall,
with public gathering areas and the individual theaters on each side. Recognizing the
significance of downtown as an additional access point, the North Entrance was aligned
on the axis of Central Street, penetrating through the building into the theater lobbies.
Each hall reads as a distinct volume; metaphorically evoking a musical instrument and
visible through the glass shell. As the natural light changes, so does the building’s
transparency, reflecting the structure’s surroundings and, at the same time, hinting at its
interior. At night, the entire building becomes inverted, displaying all of its interior
activities to the community outside.
The halls are served by a series of access balconies fronting on the great hall, forming
two conical stacked rings of white plaster. The thousands of people mingling before
and after performances and intermissions are theatrically visible to one another. Thus,
the great hall with its surrounding balconies is a counterpoint to the theaters within; the
theater of the public realm, where the celebrating public are visible to the southern
sweep of the city.
If the site generates the design of a complex as a whole, then the acoustic strategy is the
generator of the design of Helzberg Hall. Working with Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata
Acoustics, a volumetric and geometric concept for the hall evolved. From the outset, we
wanted a hall that was intimate and in which the public is engaged with the musicians in
a feeling of embrace. Rather than the traditional frontal relationship of stage and 2
audience, we surrounded the music makers with the public. With the 1,600 seat count,
which makes great intimacy possible, we strove to have each and every person
experience the music without a balcony or ceiling above them. We also wanted the
spatial experience within the hall to evoke the exterior design of the building. Thus, the
fanning geometry of the northern façade is echoed within the interior, supporting the
sculptural arrangement of the organ within it; as it reaches towards the ceiling it
branches apart, forming skylights that allow the daylight and sun to penetrate and
reflect upon the organ.
In counterpoint to the warm intimacy of Helzberg Hall, the Muriel Kauffman Theater is
festive and exuberant. The three balconies envelop the hall in a horseshoe-like
enclosure. Each balcony is broken down into a series of steps cascading from the center
rear balcony to the individual boxes on either side of the stage. The stepping enhances
sightlines and provides for a sense of intimacy and connection with the action on the
stage. The balcony balustrades are a contemporary reinterpretation of the gilded,
glittering, candle-lit balconies of 18
century theaters. The lights reflect
through the glass-like enclosure to form an ever-changing chandelier-like surface. The
hall’s acoustic enclosure is composed of undulating walls, shaped like vertical stacked
barrels and designed by Toyota for optimal sound reflection. To integrate these shapes
into the whole, a series of slats provide a screen-like enclosure. A series of murals,
conceived and designed by the students of the Kansas City Art Institute, are painted and
illuminated directly on the acoustical structures. The overall effect is of a dynamic mural,
rich in reds, greens, blues and yellows, fused into the geometry of the room.