Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Designed by architect Moshe Safdie, the building rises like waves from a five-acre park that neighbors both the Crossroads Arts District and the Sprint Center arena. The maritime forms, clad in bead-blasted stainless steel, contain two acoustically isolated venues: the Muriel Kauffman Theatre (named for the late local arts patron) and Helzberg Hall, home to the Kansas City Symphony. Whereas the former is horseshoe shaped and lined with balconies featuring balustrades of cast resin and crumpled Mylar, the latter is a wood-paneled oval with vineyard seating that brings the audience close to the music. Connecting the two spaces is a glass atrium, which opens onto an expansive terrace and promises to help bring some song, dance, and drama to the city beyond.
The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts is a newly inaugurated performing arts center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, USA, at 16th and Broadway near the Power & Light District, the Sprint Center and the Crossroads Arts District. Its construction was a major part of the ongoing redevelopment of downtown Kansas City.
The Center was created as a 501 non-profit organization. Unlike some other major civic construction projects, no taxpayer funds went into its construction. The City of Kansas City contributed and operates a parking garage adjacent to the Kauffman Center.
It is the performance home to the Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and the Kansas City Ballet which in the past performed at the Lyric Theatre (Kansas City, Missouri), eight blocks north of the center. The Kauffman Center houses two unique performance venues: Muriel Kauffman Theatre and Helzberg Hall.
According to its website, the Kauffman Center’s mission is “to enrich the lives of communities throughout the region, country and world by offering extraordinary and diverse performing arts experiences.” The Kauffman Center seeks to fulfill this mission by offering a wide selection of performances, and also by offering specific programs to connect with the youth in the Kansas City area.
Muriel McBrien Kauffman first discussed her idea for a performing arts center in Kansas City with her family and the community in 1994. After her death the following year, her daughter and chairman of the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation, Julia Irene Kauffman, began to move the project forward. A feasibility study was conducted in 1997; it resulted in a report that gave Julia Irene Kauffman and the rest of the board a practical foundation on which they could begin to build Muriel Kauffman’s vision.
In 1999, the Muriel McBrien Kauffman Foundation purchased an 18.5-acre plot of land just south of the central business district. The Foundation announced that this site would be the home of the proposed performing arts center. By 2000, the then-named Metropolitan Kansas City Performing Arts Center board had narrowed down the pool of potential architects to four. They ultimately chose Moshe Safdie, an award-winning modernist known for such buildings as Habitat 67 in Montreal, Canada; the Khalsa Heritage Centre in India; the Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore; and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Soon after, he arrived in Kansas City to see the site for himself, and while at dinner with Julia Irene Kauffman he sketched an idea for the center on his napkin. Soon, that sketch would evolve into an architectural icon and the home for performing arts in Kansas City.
Safdie presented his plan in May of 2002, and four years later, on October 6, 2006, ground was broken for what had now been officially named the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.
Design and construction:
The technical requirements and exacting standards required of a facility like the Kauffman Center made it one of the most complex structures in the world to design and build. The building, which took nearly five years to complete, contains 40,000 square feet of glass, 25,000 cubic yards of concrete, and 27 steel cables. The main lobby, Brandmeyer Great Hall, is built of a glass ceiling and sloping glass walls that provide a panoramic view of Kansas City to the south. The twenty-seven steel cables on the south façade are anchored in embeds that weigh approximately one and a half tons, and the embeds are an extension of the foundation and bedrock beneath the building. When the steel cables were pulled taut during the construction process, the entire steel structure shifted two to six inches to the south. This tensioning provides stability to the structure and keeps the glass lobby securely in place. The Kauffman Center covers 13 acres (53,000 m2), including landscaped grounds over the 1,000-space, city-owned Arts District Garage. The cost of the project was approximately $413 million, which includes both a $40 million operating endowment and the city’s $47 million construction of the parking garage. The Kauffman Center was designed by lead architect Moshe Safdie, acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota, theater consultant Richard Pilbrow, and engineering firm Arup. Local firm BNIM was the associate architect. Lead contractor was J.E. Dunn Construction Group of Kansas City.
The center’s exterior consists of two symmetrical half shells of vertical, concentric arches that open toward the south. Each shell houses one acoustically independent performance venue, although the backstage area is shared. The south façade of the Center is made entirely of glass. Safdie describes the lobby as “an expansive glazed porch contained by a glass tent-like structure.” For those inside Brandmeyer Great Hall, the glass puts Kansas City on display; for those on the outside, the Kauffman Center becomes like a terrarium, revealing the thousands of attendees backlit against the white interior.
The 285,000-square foot (26,500 m2) Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts houses two sophisticated performance halls: Muriel Kauffman Theatre and Helzberg Hall. The venues share backstage space that runs the entire length of the Kauffman Center. There are dressing rooms that can accommodate more than 250 performers, along with 11 rehearsal rooms. The Kauffman Center joins the Lincoln Center as another of the few performing arts centers in the country to have two (or more) performance venues in one building. Another example is the Kennedy Centre in Washington, D.C.
This decision to have two halls, each tailored to a specific purpose, rather than a multipurpose building, reminded many Kansas City residents of a similar decision in the 1970s—when Ewing Kauffman and city officials decided to build separate stadiums for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Kansas City Royals, rather than a single arena for both.
Muriel Kauffman Theatre
This is an 1,800-seat theater whose design was inspired by the great European opera houses. With multiple balconies and box seating on either side of the theater, attendees are much closer to the stage than in most other auditorium-type venues. The balconies and boxes, which feature seats covered in various shades of red, also boast balustrades that glimmer with gold lighting and dim when the performance begins. The undulating walls of the theatre are painted with a brightly colored mural, designed and carried out by students at the Kansas City Art Institute, under the guidance of Moshe Safdie. With a 5,000-square-foot stage, an orchestra pit that can house up to 90 musicians, and a 74-foot tall fly tower, Muriel’s Theatre is the performance home of the Kansas City Ballet and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, as well as the site of many other theatrical, musical, and dance productions. Another feature of the Muriel Kauffman Theatre is the installation of the Figaro Simultext Seatback System, which displays subtitles in various languages on the backs of chairs, as opposed to most other opera houses that require the audience to look above the stage for opera translations.
This is a 1,600-seat, oval-shaped concert hall, and it is the performance home to the Kansas City Symphony. Because the stage extends into approximately one-third of the space, even the seat farthest from the stage is a mere 100 feet away. Helzberg Hall features vineyard-style seating on all four sides of the stage, adding to the intimate feel of the space. Safdie explains it thus: “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.” Within the stage itself are motorized risers, which can either lie flat or rise into a tier, depending on the needs of the performance. Helzberg Hall also houses a 79-stop, 102-rank pipe organ built by the firm Casavant Frères in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada. Fewer than 10 percent of the 5,548 pipes are visible to those in the hall. The largest pipe is 32 feet tall and weighs approximately 960 pounds. After the two-month installation process, and an additional two-month tuning period, the organ was dedicated on March 10, 2012 with a special concert by James David Christie.
Brandmeyer Great Hall
The two venues are noted above are linked by the Great Hall, which features an expansive view of the Kansas City skyline to the south. It serves as a lobby for patrons on performance nights and is also available for special events. The pristine white great hall provides access to the performance halls by a series of stacking, open balconies. This means that on performance nights, patrons attending events in either hall are visible to each other, as well as to the city below.
Moshe Safdie Architects
“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. 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.” – Moshe Safdie
The halls are served by a series of access balconies fronting on the Brandmeyer Great Hall, forming two conical stacked rings of white plaster. 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 1,800-seat Muriel Kauffman Theatre, inspired by the great opera houses of Europe, is designed to be visually striking, yet retain an intimate experience for both audiences and performers. Audiences are seated around the stage in a variation on the traditional horseshoe configuration, bringing them closer to the performers than in auditorium-style venues. A flexible orchestra pit configuration and the ability to adjust the stage opening width make the Muriel Kauffman Theatre adaptable for both intimate and large-scale productions. The Muriel Kauffman Theatre will host dance performances, plays, musicals and more, and will serve as the performance home of Kansas City Ballet and Lyric Opera of Kansas City.
The 1,600-seat Helzberg Hall will be the performance home of the Kansas City Symphony as well as host to renowned international soloists and ensembles.The Hall is oval in shape, with a vineyard-style seating configuration. The stage extends approximately one-third of the distance into the Hall, thus placing 40 percent of the seats alongside or behind the orchestra. This creates an intimate and immersive experience for both artists and audiences and allows a portion of the audience to experience the musician’s perspective during performance.
The fanning geometry of the northern facade is echoed within the interior, supporting the sculptural arrangement of the organ within it. As the custom-designed Casavant Frères organ reaches towards the ceiling it branches apart, forming skylights that allow the daylight and sun to penetrate and reflect upon the organ.
Safdie collaborated with Richard Pilbrow of Theatre Projects Consultants and Yasuhisa Toyota of Nagata Acoustics America on the design of both halls, which will share backstage facilities, including dressing accommodations for over 250 performers, as well as 11 rehearsal and warm-up rooms. The Center has been designed so it can accommodate future expansion along the east side of the building.
The Kauffman Center will provide performance homes for three of Kansas City’s premier performing arts organizations and keep them unified under one roof. The Kauffman Center’s resident companies will include the Kansas City Ballet, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and the Kansas City Symphony.
The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts has raised more than $369 million to date, nearly 90 percent of the total funding. The $413 million project includes, $326 million for the creation of the performing arts center, a $40 million endowment, and a $47 million, 1,000-car underground parking garage funded by the City of Kansas City, MO. The Kauffman Center’s construction and endowment costs are being funded wholly from private sources.
Muriel Kauffman Theatre:
Theatre Design: The Muriel Kauffman Theatre will host a variety of dance and theatrical performances from around the world, and be the performance home of Kansas City Ballet and Lyric Opera of Kansas City.
Inspired by the great opera houses of Europe, the Theatre is designed to be visually striking, while providing an intimate experience for both audiences and performers. Audiences are seated around the stage in a variation on the traditional horseshoe configuration—bringing them closer to the performers than in auditorium-style venues.
A flexible orchestra pit configuration and the ability to adjust the stage opening width make the Muriel Kauffman Theatre tremendously adaptable, allowing for both intimate and large-scale productions.
- 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
Hall Design: From chamber music to full orchestra, from jazz and pop to lectures and recitals, the 1,600-seat hall will be the performance home of the Kansas City Symphony as well as host renowned international soloists and ensembles.
The Hall is oval in shape, with a vineyard-style seating configuration. The stage extends approximately one-third of the distance into the Hall, thus placing 40 percent of the seats alongside or behind the orchestra. This creates an intimate and immersive experience for both artists and audiences and allows a portion of the audience to experience the musician’s perspective during performance. A custom-designed pipe organ provides the Hall’s visual centerpiece.
The Hall is designed to be exceptionally flexible—acoustics can be readily customized for solo concerts, chamber music, and full orchestra, while a mechanical riser system allows the layout of the stage to be altered quickly and easily.
- 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
Project name: Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Location: 1601 Broadway, Kansas City, Missouri 64106, United States
Coordinates: 39° 5′ 37.31″ N, 94° 35′ 12.56″ W
Type: Dance / Music Center, Theatre and Auditorium
Total floor area: 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
Shared backstage facilities:
- dressing accommodations for over 250 performers
- 11 rehearsal and warm-up rooms
- meet-and-greet lounge
- 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
Construction started: October 6, 2006
Inaugurated: September 16, 2011
Opening Date: September 16, 2011
Cost: $415 million
Completion Year: 2011
- 2012 American of Institute of Steel Construction (AISC IDEAS2 Awards) – Presidential Award of Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel
Client / Owner / Developer: Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
Architects: Moshe Safdie Architects, Somerville, Massachusetts, United States
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.
Text Description: © Courtesy of Moshe Safdie Architects
Images: © Tim Hursley, zahner, Steve Hebert