Monthly archives for October, 2015

29 October, 2015 | Leadership

PDX + ULI: Bringing New Development Ideas Home to Kansas City

During the month of September I had the opportunity to attend the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Exchange trip to Portland and the Urban Land Institute’s Fall Conference in San Francisco. While the focus of these two events was different, I left both energized with new ideas to share with the rest of the Helix team and others in the Kansas City community who share our passion for making KC a healthy, growing, culture-filled place that people love to call home.

These are just a few of the takeaways that caught my attention and seemed to continuously appear throughout varied presentations I attended. While I view these ideas through the eyes of a designer, I would love to hear the perspectives of others. Hopefully this is just the beginning of an ongoing conversation about how we can continue to elevate our city.

We make our own luck
Many urbanists say that Portland is lucky to have the city they do today, but I say they made their own luck. 35 years ago, following state legislation that set agriculture and the environment as the two topics that are most dear to Oregonians, the people of Portland established their Urban Growth Boundary. Fast forward to today, and Portland now has the kind of city that the next generations want; dense urban places where business and culture can thrive in a setting that supports walking, biking and all forms of rail travel. If Portland was lucky, they made their own luck with their UGB. As Kansas City plans for growth we need to look beyond the current trends to what people will want in a city 30 years from now.

Culture is the new currency
Play. Work. Live. That is the order of how people adopt new places. Grand master plans are great, but the cities that nurture and support rich urban cultures, especially around the arts, will attract locals and visitors alike who want to be where that vibe exists. And, cities made up of single use districts (financial, residential, service) are going to be things of the past. It isn’t enough to create mixed-use districts; we need to create districts that put culture and experience first. If you do that housing and office development will follow. The Crossroads Arts District in KC is a prime example of this development pattern. We have so many great urban neighborhoods in KC – the Northeast, 18th & Vine, the West Bottoms – the list is too long to note them all. Where are these next pockets of culture in our community and what can we do together to help them thrive and grow?

The next MAJOR disruptor to commercial real estate
Autonomous vehicles. The world we live in today where we need several places to park our cars will be gone in  15 years. To get around we’ll simply notify the ride service that we use to pick us up and deliver us to our destinations Think of what that means? All of those parking spaces and garages that we’ve built will be ripe for repurposing. As our urban centers continue along the path of urban redevelopment we need to avoid over-building additional parking and make sure that any new structures are capable of adapting to other uses.

Tired of hearing about Millenials?
Well, Gen Z, the group following the Millenials will be in the workforce in 5 years and they are even larger in numbers than their predecessors. As the first TRUE digital natives, they look at the world differently. Because of technology they have lived their entire lives untethered so for them, ‘work’ will no longer be someplace they go but something they do. Their belief system will continue to change how and where we work.  The New York Times and Fortune magazine have published some really exceptional articles on the demographics of this generation and the potential impact they will have on the workplace environment.

What’s next in sustainable design?
For years energy use has been the primary driver behind sustainable development but water constraints will increasingly shape world-wide development patterns, and therefore our real estate. It’s also projected that 80% of the buildings we will need and occupy in 2050 already exist today. For those of us who believe that preserving existing buildings is one of the most effective ways to ensure both environmental and cultural sustainability, we couldn’t be more pleased to hear this news.

If you want to dig deeper on these two great events you can find the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce recap of the Portland Leadership Exchange HEREULI’s recap of the Fall Meeting HERE and videos of ULI presentations from the Fall Meeting HERE.

Open PhotoInsights from Helix principal, Jay Tomlinson Insights from Helix principal, Jay Tomlinson
Open PhotoMixed Use + Bike lanes. A great combo in PDX. Mixed Use + Bike lanes. A great combo in PDX.
Open PhotoFarm to table dinner with other KC leaders in PDX. Farm to table dinner with other KC leaders in PDX.
Open PhotoSan Francisco’s historic Pickwick Hotel is ALMOST as cool as KC’s. San Francisco’s historic Pickwick Hotel is ALMOST as cool as KC’s.

16 October, 2015 | Awards

Helix Brings Home Two Design Excellence Awards From AIA Central States Region

Each year the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Central States Region recognizes the most exceptional projects and firms throughout the five-state region at their annual Excellence in Design awards. The 2015 awards ceremony, hosted in Des Moines, Iowa, recognized the work of Helix Architecture + Design for two distinguished Kansas City institutions, the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD) and Kansas City University (KCU). The renovation and expansion of the KCPD Headquarters was one of only three projects to receive the highest award, an Honor Award in the Architecture category. The KCU Academic Center received a Merit Award in the Interior Architecture category. AIA Central States received over two-hundred submissions from across the region.

“Although they each have their own unique mission, both KCPD and KCU are cornerstone institutions within the Kansas City community,” said Reeves Wiedeman, principal with Helix. “Their investment in these facilities reflects their commitment to creating a quality environment for the people they serve and their employees. We are extremely proud to see our work for both organizations recognized among the best architecture in the region.”

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The renovation and expansion of the KCPD Headquarters was designed to re-position the facility for another 70 years of service to the community while respecting the character of the historic structure. An important goal of the project was to increase transparency and expand police interaction with the community. This involved extensive changes to the first floor including the addition of a community room, which allows the public to engage in the Board of Police Commissioners meetings and serves as a venue for Police community outreach programming.

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Jury comments for the Police Headquarters included:

“A beautifully integrated new public face for the Kansas City Police Department uses a series of strong elements to create transparency and openness.”

“The appropriately scaled addition is organized under a hovering patterned, coffered concrete structural slab, giving the space a strong graphic element while providing daylighting and concealing utilities.”

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The KCU Academic Center renovation transformed an underutilized, 1,500-seat auditorium into a state-of-the-art learning facility and hub for student activity. The design team developed the innovative concept of stacking two lecture halls within the footprint of the existing auditorium. This resourceful solution saved nearly a third of what it might otherwise cost to build a new lecture facility. The Academic Center’s transformation from a seldom-used facility to a hub of active learning and collaboration has given KCU students and faculty a truly functional, beautiful new home.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for the work we have done to create the most student-focused environment in the nation,” said Marc B. Hahn, DO, president and chief executive officer of KCU. “Helix Architecture + Design has been a true partner throughout this undertaking, as they understand the needs of our students and embrace our vision.”

Jury comments for the Academic Center included:

“Beautiful redesign of an underutilized lecture hall, expanding its utility significantly.”

“Clear distinction between upper and lower lecture halls is quite nice – plaster -vs- wood, but both relate to one-another and hold together as a unified project.”

“Details are quite beautiful – sweeping curves of the plaster work and craftsmanship of the wood liner.”

“Love the subtle innovation of having two rows per lecture hall tier to allow for small group discussions – great idea.”

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The 2015 AIA Central States design award jury was comprised of nationally recognized designers, including Jennifer Yoos, Principal at VJAA; William Baxley, Vice President and Director of Design at Leo A Daly; and Marc Swackhamer, Head + Associate Professor, School of Architecture, University of Minnesota. In order to be eligible for consideration projects had to be completed within that last five years and designed by an AIA Central States member or located in the five-state region, which includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

Congratulations to our clients at the Kansas City Police Department and Kansas City University, our engineering and construction partners and all of our design team members. Successful projects are only achieved through strong relationships across all team members and these awards belong to all of you.


Helix Principal, Kristine Sutherlin Elected President of the Kansas City Architectural Foundation

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Congratulations to Helix principal, Kristine Sutherlin on being elected president of the Kansas City Architectural Foundation (KCAF) board. The organization has a tremendous impact on the Kansas City design community by granting scholarships to architectural students from the metropolitan area and hosting outreach events that educate citizens on the power of architecture to transform lives and improve the places where we live, learn, work, and play. Kristine has been involved with the organization since 2013 and recently finished a term as the organization’s vice president.

Since it was founded in 1984, KCAF has awarded more than 140 scholarships totaling over $250,000 to students from the Kansas City area. Over the next year the organization will be kicking off a capital campaign to increase the number and amount of student scholarships they provide.

Why is KCAF such an important organization for our community? We asked President Sutherlin herself.

“As college costs continue to escalate it is critical that we expand our reach within the design community. We want to make pursuing a career in architecture accessible for anyone that has a passion for this industry. Our scholarships have assisted some extraordinarily talented students and there is so much more that we can do as an industry to help support and train the next generation.”

Keep up the good work Kristine and thank you for helping to support young designers. We couldn’t be more proud to have you as one of the fearless leaders of our Helix family!