Monthly archives for July, 2015

16 July, 2015 | Design

Placemaking at Barney Allis Plaza


The people who brought you The Fiery Stick and the Midnight Underground are back… and we couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it!  LiveKC – whose mission is to make Kansas City a more attractive place for Millennials to live, work and play – has a new ambition this summer: “Wage war with the couches of Kansas City, and disrupt the commuter culture of Kansas City”.

How do they plan on doing this? By “bringing together remarkable design, unexpected amenities and regular programs that transform the Barney Allis Plaza ‘Public Space’ into a ‘Place’”.  A place that LiveKC refers to as The Backyard.

The goal of placemaking is to create public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well being. LiveKC has already hosted various community events and charrettes, getting input and feedback from the downtown community along the way. The next steps for The Backyard team includes introducing temporary design solutions, allowing for the plaza to become a testing grounds for various configurations, programs, and events.  Doing so will help inform future design decisions and master planning for the plaza.

LiveKC has teamed up with local partners including Helix, HNTB, and KCDC to help bring the future vision of Barney Allis Plaza to life. Things to look forward to this summer include new outdoor furniture additions, regular activities (leisure sports leagues and fitness classes), and large event concepts. We may have even heard someone say “Pong Fest”.

To stay up-to-date on weekly events, follow LiveKC on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

14 July, 2015 | Thought Leadership

Noteworthy at Neocon | Andie’s Top Five

For Helix’s interior designers, summer typically includes a quick trip to Chicago for the industry’s largest convention, Neocon. Held at the Merchandise Mart, the event is attended by 50,000 architecture and design professionals from around the world. Many of the large manufacturers we work with regularly have large showrooms, reinventing themselves each year for Neocon to show off their latest products. Each year we leave inspired by the latest products and trends. Here are a few favorite takeaways from this year….

1. Patricia Urquiola
Hands-down the most memorable part of Neocon 2015 (other than the torrential rain) was attending the keynote lecture of international star designer and architect, Patricia Urquiola. She is a passionate, charismatic, innovative force of nature. Her work is experiential; the objects and spaces she creates are sensitive to the emotional and mental needs of humans while being beautiful, playful, and immersive. She is prolific, designing dozens of new pieces with her various collaborators this year alone. And she deals great advice: “Only work with people you like” and “Get out of your comfort zone”, to name a few. Above all else, she is an exemplary role model for young women, working moms in particular. She has found a way to balance a brilliant career with a strong home life by building her design studio and residence in the same space. See photos HERE. Want more eye candy? Take a look at her book, Time to Make a Book, or the Haworth showroom she designed. I’m in love!

2. Wellness
Wellness is center-stage in the design world now. Similar to the growing prominence of sustainability over the past decade, designers, researchers, and health advocates alike are beginning to realize that the well-being of individuals, communities, businesses, and the environment are all inextricably linked. There are now design guidelines and data galore to support the value of investing in wellness. I attended a fire-in-the-seat-of-your-pants sort of presentation called Ethonomics: Design for Health & Well-being, that took a look at how our built environment (and design decisions) can affect cities and communities at the macro level, workplace culture and business vitality and the building level, down to the mental, emotional, and physical health of the individual at the micro level. Not only should our spaces be beautiful and functional, they should be restorative and supportive too! Check out these great resources for more information:

Teknion – The Rise of Ethonomics
The Well Building Standard
New York City Active Design Guidelines – promoting physical activity and health in design
The 1% – Strengthening Nonprofits through design

3.  Blurring lines between home & work
One of our favorite retail home furnishing brands, West Elm Workspace has launched a commercial line of office furniture in collaboration with Inscape.  It’s hard to say what sort of market impact this will have, but as the trend of blending workplace and home continues, this emerging development makes a lot of sense. The new line includes four collections: Mid-Century, Modern, Industrial, and Contemporary. The Contemporary collection is most similar to what most other office furniture companies offer; the Mid-Century and Modern collections offer the warmth of rich wood tones with stream-lined design; and the Industrial is the most original, taking the charm of an industrial 100-year old warehouse and translating it into plain sawn oak with steel frame.

4. Vitra’s Flexible workplace
Three times a day Vitra staff transformed the showroom in choreographed rhythm, literally, as they dance partied the furniture into various configurations to support education, work, and hospitality settings. On top of the energetic blast of beats pulsing through the space, they also had funky fresh usable furniture, a groovy analog adjustable height plywood workstation, and enough real live greens around every bend, making this fairly basic, windowless showroom electric with good vibes. Always an inspiration! See the beautiful showroom HERE.

5. Sophisticated palettes with a human touch
The most stunning showrooms (in my opinion of course) were simple, stately, and dramatic in their elegance. Davis and Coalesse embodied the restorative, calming traits of designing for wellness with warm wood, clean stone, nubby neutrals, and the dramatic impact of black and white with minimal color accents. In the past, it’s been white showrooms with colors that punch you in the face every time you turn a corner. This year, the design spoke for itself, was gentle and thoughtful, and created space in your brain for things other than stimulation overload.


Open PhotoChicago (pre-torrential rain)  |  home of Neocon Chicago (pre-torrential rain) | home of Neocon
Patricia Urquiola, Neocon 2015 Keynote Speaker Patricia Urquiola, Neocon 2015 Keynote Speaker
Open PhotoQuote from Quote from "Ethonomics: Design for Health & Well-being" presentation
West Elm Workspace - Industrial Collection West Elm Workspace - Industrial Collection
Vitra's showroom transformation performance crew Vitra's showroom transformation performance crew
Open PhotoDetail shot of the Detail shot of the "Tix" bench at the Davis showroom

7 July, 2015 | Renovation

If Walls Could Talk

It’s no secret that we love old buildings. So when our design team was presented with fifteen stories of ornate details, unparalleled views, and some of the richest history in downtown Kansas City, we were beyond excited.  As we’ve learned, every renovation provides a chance to not only breathe new life into a space, but connect people to its history and uncover some pretty amazing stories along the way. The Baltimore Club Renovation was no exception.

Built in 1920, the 15-story building was originally created as the home of the Kansas City Club, a private gentlemen’s club established in 1882. The building was designed by local architect, Charles A. Smith, and included a large dining room, several bars, meeting rooms, a banquet hall, athletic facilities, an indoor pool, and a rooftop terrace. Situated on the floors between these amenities were six stories of guestrooms, which have now been converted into rentable lofts. The building remained the Kansas City Club’s clubhouse until 2001 when it merged with the University Club and moved to a nearby downtown building.

Notable members of the Kansas City Club have included Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, General Omar Bradley, and political boss Tom Pendergast.

Appearing on the National Register of Historic Places, the original 1920s structure  is a stunning example of elaborate, gothic Tudor detailing and old-world craftsmanship. The building features a limestone and brick exterior with terracotta detailing, while the interior showcases the original hand-hewn walnut, carved stone, and ornate plaster.

When the Helix design team was tasked with reinvigorating 40,000 square feet of event space, we knew we had to pay homage to the building’s history, while bringing the space up to modern, functional standards. Helix designed the project in accordance with preservation guidelines and received both state and federal historic tax credits.

Renovation of  the luxury event spaces on the 1st-6th floors, included restoration and updates to the original Lobby, Press Room, Tudor Room, Walnut Room, and Library. The project also included the complete renovation of the 15th floor, which had been converted to apartments in 2002, and the addition of an outdoor terrace that offers 180-degree views in downtown Kansas City. Operable glass walls between the terrace and the interior provide a remarkable indoor-outdoor experience. A key design feature within the space is a custom-designed trellis ceiling, made from painted, 3/16” aluminum – reminiscent of the original ceiling design.

The 15th floor event space was once an open roof garden and terrace, and was referred to as “Just the place for a cooling drink in tinkling glasses.” As members of the Kansas City Club were quoted saying, “the stars will be at our fingertips.”

The Helix team has been thrilled to work with the Baltimore Club, transforming this historic landmark into a new-era event space.  We look forward to continuing to watch the history of the building become enriched by those who experience it. Cheers!

For more information, including renovation progress photos, historic images, and event space inquiries, follow The Baltimore Club on Facebook and Instagram.

Open PhotoThe Kansas City Club in the 1930s The Kansas City Club in the 1930s
Open PhotoForemens Safety Meeting - Kansas City Club, January 28,1937 Foremens Safety Meeting - Kansas City Club, January 28,1937
Open PhotoThe 15th Floor Roof Bar - complete with custom aluminum trellis ceiling and corrugated brass bar front. The 15th Floor Roof Bar - complete with custom aluminum trellis ceiling and corrugated brass bar front.
Open PhotoSchematic elevation drawing of the 15th floor trellis design. Schematic elevation drawing of the 15th floor trellis design.
Open Photo“The Roof Garden had been extremely popular for members and their guests, and in September 1954, the Board approved a total expenditure of $300,000 to enclose the Roof. Plans were announced in the June 5th, 1955 edition of the Kansas City Star. The Grand Opening of the Starlight Roof took place on February 8th, 1956. Over 600 members were in attendance at the opening of the Starlight Roof atop the Kansas City Club.” “The Roof Garden had been extremely popular for members and their guests, and in September 1954, the Board approved a total expenditure of $300,000 to enclose the Roof. Plans were announced in the June 5th, 1955 edition of the Kansas City Star. The Grand Opening of the Starlight Roof took place on February 8th, 1956. Over 600 members were in attendance at the opening of the Starlight Roof atop the Kansas City Club.”