New Helix Promotion

We are pleased to announce Kate Hulsen, Helix’s director of marketing and business development, was recently elevated to principal. In her role, she leads the execution and oversight of all marketing and business development initiatives across the firm’s core markets.

Over the course of her career, she has worked exclusively for architectural firms, cultivating a deep understanding of the profession and Kansas City. Since joining Helix in 2015, Kate has become a valuable asset to the team. Her drive and extensive knowledge of the local business community have helped our firm secure highly competitive pursuits, such as the Kansas City Art Institute student housing project, DEG Headquarters and Missouri State Hill Hall renovation.

Kate graduated from the Kansas City’s Chamber of Commerce Centurion’s Leadership Program in 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and Public Administration from the University of Missouri – Columbia.

We asked her a few questions to help you get to know her a bit more.


What led you to a career in architecture?

I have been around the architecture industry my whole life – my dad is an architect in St. Louis. He owns a small firm there where I worked in various capacities for as long as I can remember. I did everything from collating specs as a small child (back before printers could do that for you – when each page was individually typed and photocopied!) to answering phones in high school and eventually, handling accounting systems when I was in college. Although I studied marketing in college, I love working around all of the creative personalities that exist in a design firm.

 

What brought you to Helix?

I have a deep love of old, historic buildings. As long as I’ve been in Kansas City, I’ve known about the work that Helix does revitalizing them. It is one of the things that drew me to the position here. It is really incredible to see new life brought into old, neglected structures. Getting to learn the stories behind these buildings and watch the transformation from design through construction is pretty incredible. I also really value the firm’s commitment to only do work that has a positive impact on the community, as well as the extensive community involvement of the firm and firm leaders.   

 

What do you love most about your job?

Getting a behind the scenes look at projects that are transforming our city. Since the majority of Helix’s work is in Kansas City, I get to see the impact our projects have all around us.  

 

Do you have any hobbies?

I love to travel. My husband and I have been working our way through the National Parks since we met. We are taking our little one on a road-trip through Germany and Austria this spring – fingers crossed we survive the international flight with a one year old!

 

What is a guilty pleasure of yours?

Betty Rae’s s’mores ice cream

Congratulations Kate!


Kansas City Crossroads Revitalization 15 Years Later

Fifteen years ago we celebrated the opening of the Webster House after a complete renovation that restored the historic character of this architectural gem. The project was the first of numerous completed by Shirley Bush Helzberg in the Crossroads Arts District. Since that time, vacant buildings and empty lots throughout the Crossroads have been transformed into one of Kansas City’s most vibrant neighborhoods. From that first project, we have had the opportunity to work alongside Helzberg as she has invested in the neighborhood, block by block, restoring buildings and inserting new structures.

One of the many places that her investment is evident is at the intersection of 17th and Wyandotte, where Helzberg has revitalized all four corners. This intersection was once part of Kansas City’s historic Film Row, where every major Hollywood Studio had distribution offices from the 1920’s to the 1960’s. After the film houses moved out, many of these buildings sat vacant or substantially underutilized until they were acquired by Helzberg.

The projects on these four corners merge past and future to create a bustling business district by day and a thriving cultural district at night.

Webster House (Northwest Corner)

Helix designed the adaptive reuse of the historic Webster House School, the oldest standing school building remaining in Kansas City, into a restaurant and boutique. Originally designed by local architect Manual Diaz in 1885 and constructed the same year, the Queen Anne Style educational facility was rescued by Helzberg from years of neglect and disrepair. The main level of the three-story facility features fine antique galleries and retail showrooms. The second floor features a full-service dining room, a pub and a large-capacity catering kitchen. Original classrooms are now used for banquets, receptions and meetings.

The project, which received federal and state historic tax credits, was designed in accordance with the National Parks Service (NPS) guidelines for historic preservation.The masonry-and-wood exterior was completely restored to its original condition, which included the reconstruction of the original bell tower. Many of the interior finishes, such as the grand stair, were recreated with reference to their original character. Other features, like the stained-glass windows, were reconstructed with historical accuracy.

 

Vitagraph Building (Southeast Corner)

Constructed in 1930 by the Warner Brothers, the Vitagraph Film Exchange Building underwent a full-scale renovation in 2012. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Art Deco structure was originally designed as a film warehouse and distribution facility and is now home to the offices of the Kansas City Symphony and the headquarters for Global Prairie, an integrated communications firm.

The Helix team designed the project in accordance with NPS guidelines for historic preservation and achieved LEED Gold Certification, one of only eight buildings at the time to achieve this level in Kansas City. Unique historic features of the structure were carefully reconstructed, including the building’s original decorative plaster, terrazzo floors, marble and limestone finishes, as well as the distinctive cast-in-place structural grid that features decorative concrete ceilings throughout. A new 40-space, two-level parking structure built adjacent to the Vitagraph Building provides covered parking as well as a green roof terrace that serves tenants.

 

Webster Garage (Northeast Corner)

The Webster Garage was built to support three underserved entities nearby: The Webster House, the Vitagraph Building, and members of the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra that perform in the adjacent Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. Strategically located between the three user groups, the structure, which houses 185 cars, freed up once-utilized parking lots for new and more dense development. Retail space along 17th Street has an adjacent courtyard surrounded by planter beds. Work from a prominent local artist is integrated into the structure. Concrete and masonry materials were selected to provide both durability and an aesthetic that relates to the surrounding neighborhood.

 

1700-1710 Wyandotte (Southwest Corner)

The three buildings from 1700-1710 Wyandotte were renovated into modern office space that house new tenants to the Crossroads Arts District. 1700 Wyandotte was formerly owned by Universal Studios and operated as the Midwest storage and distribution for the Midwest. The two properties at 1706 and 1710 needed considerable work and were consolidated into one larger office building. All three buildings underwent complete renovations, including exterior restoration, new buildings systems and the addition of rooftop terraces with views of the Crossroads neighborhood and downtown Kansas City as an amenity for tenants.

As the neighborhood continues to welcome new businesses, residents and cultural assets we are proud to work alongside trailblazers like Helzberg who have helped make the Crossroads what it is today.


5 Ways to Improve Workplace Health with the WELL Building Standard

With the start of a new year, it’s natural to focus on health and wellness. While many of us set goals for a balanced diet and working out, we often overlook improving a large component of our day – the workplace.

The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) was founded on the belief that improving the quality of a building can help people work, live and perform at their best. Studies, like one from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) back up their assertions. It found that companies who earned high marks on its HERO Health and Well-Being Best Practices Scorecard, which was done in collaboration with Mercer©, outperformed the 500 largest U.S. companies on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index over a six-year period.

To improve health in work environments, IWBI released the WELL Building Standard in October of 2014. They cover seven, core concepts of health: air, nourishment, fitness, mind, water, light, comfort and innovation. Alissa Wehmueller, Principal at Helix Architecture + Design, saw how the program could benefit our clients and decided to pursue and ultimately, achieved her WELL AP designation.  

“We’ve been encouraging clients to implement many of these strategies for a while. However, this program goes a step further, providing measurable metrics, as well as a breadth of data, to support these ideas,” said Wehmueller.  

Like LEED, WELL’s tenets can be incorporated into spaces whether or not a company is pursuing full certification. The program covers 105 elements, or features, giving buildings and organizations a number of ways to make their work environment healthier.

“With so many initiatives to choose from, knowing where to start can be daunting. If you’re ready to make some changes, start by talking to your associates first. Find out the biggest concerns in the office, along with which ideas associates are most excited about and work to address those,” said Wehmueller.

WELL accounts for the entire workplace experience, covering everything from air quality to an employee’s physical comfort. Here, Wehmueller shares five strategies that can improve workplace health using the standard as a guide.

  1. Support mental health.

    There are number of ways that a well-designed office can improve an employee’s mental health from encouraging healthy sleep habits to providing connections and access to nature. Flexibility is another important element. Research has shown a connection between job satisfaction, as well as a group’s cohesiveness, to the presence of varied spaces that support different workstyles. The WELL Standard says work environments should offer spaces to work, focus, collaborate and rest. This means providing a combination of quiet zones, collaborative spaces and multi-functional workstations for team members.

  2. Reevaluate lighting.

    Effective lighting design, offering access to daylight for our bodies’ circadian rhythms, workstations positioned to reduce glare and daylight modeling are just a few of the thirteen ways the WELL Standard addresses light. Natural daylight and access to views of nature are critical components of supporting employees’ overall well-being and healthy sleep habits.

  3. Reduce distractions.

    Internal noise can lead to decreased productivity, particularly in open offices where distractions and interruptions are frequent. However, there are a large number of acoustic solutions and design practices companies can use to ensure each employee has a comfortable place to focus. Impact reducing flooring, sound barriers, sound masking and sound reducing surfaces can help companies enhance their teams’ performance and ability to focus.  

  4. Foster healthy nutrition.

    Eating habits are often influenced and reinforced through cues in our environment. Currently, only 8 percent of people consume the recommended four servings of fruit per day, and 6 percent consume the recommended five servings of vegetables per day. Providing access to healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables and communal cooking areas can foster healthier decision making. WELL also suggests the reconfiguration of dining environments to increase the appeal and visibility of nutritious foods. Providing convenient bottle refilling stations with filtered water and signage to encourage drinking water reminds associates to stay hydrated.

  5. Start moving.

    Encourage employees to take the stairs by making stairwells open and accessible. Another method to incentivize movement is to add physical activity spaces or make changes to the building’s exterior, such as designing cyclist and pedestrian-friendly environments. Organizations can also supplement gym memberships and fitness programs to encourage an active lifestyle outside the office.

Organizations with healthier employees can not only increase productivity and retention, but also reduce health insurance costs for individuals, as well as their businesses. With a variety of elements to choose from, there are multiple ways to reap the benefits of the WELL Standard. Discover which features are the best fit for your organization by contacting us at info@helixkc.com to schedule a space evaluation.


Local Entrepreneurs Build Lasting Relationships and New Headquarters through HEMP Connection

When Duey Williams joined the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program (HEMP) over 15 years ago, he was new to Kansas City and working to make the business he had just purchased, Skyline E3, a success. It was in this organization he met Jay Tomlinson, founding principal of Helix Architecture + Design. The three-year program, which offers mentoring and connections with fellow entrepreneurs, is known for helping set the foundation for lasting relationships.  

Williams credits long-term relationships, like those made through HEMP, for Skyline’s success. In fact, he said support from entrepreneurs helped the organization grow during those difficult years.

“HEMP is not a soliciting organization. However, entrepreneurs in the program support one another. People want to do business with people they know and trust, and HEMPers recommended my work outside of their own organizations. These connections were an important contributor to Skyline’s growth.”

Skyline E3’s revenue is now seven times what it was when Williams purchased the business in 2000. With their expanding size and market reach, they needed a physical space that could better accommodate their personnel and client growth, while showcasing their products and company values. When it came to finding an architect that could bring his vision to life, Williams looked to his HEMP connections. Skyline E3 hired Helix Architecture + Design to create a new, 53,000-square-foot headquarters that would provide a state-of-the-art showroom for clients and a modern workplace for employees.

“I like to do business with people I know and always wanted to work with Jay,” said Williams.  

In the design of their new headquarters, Skyline wanted to invigorate company culture, create a sales area for clients and have room for growth. Helix worked closely with the company’s leadership to define their goals and unique amenities they wanted to incorporate for clients and staff. An impressive entrance and lobby, community space and conference rooms which operated as show rooms were key aspects of their vision.

The showroom and office space within their new headquarters provides an open and relaxed sales environment for clients with ample room for the company’s large display options. The open office environment offers flexibility and encourages collaboration among Skyline E3’s growing team. Bright pops of color, branded graphics and a conference table that converts into a ping pong table convey the energy and values of the company. The warehouse storage that comprises half of their building provides ample room for growth as the company continues to expand.

Key spaces were designed to accommodate the company’s desire to expand client and community outreach. The prep and staging area allows Skyline to showcase work to clients visiting their facility. A seminar room is used for team meetings and is also available to other area businesses.

“It’s important to our company to support entrepreneurs. We offer seminars at our new headquarters that are designed to help businesses improve their ROI at tradeshows. It’s one of the ways we give back to the community for its continued support. Having a newly designed facility helps make these initiatives possible,” said Williams.

Continuing to foster local entrepreneurs has been important to both Williams and Tomlinson throughout their careers. Since graduating from the HEMP class of 2001, Tomlinson has remained active in the organization and currently serves as a HEMP fellow.

“HEMP is a key component of Kansas City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Tomlinson. “The program offers an objective sounding board for firm leaders that is invaluable.”  

If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner interested in learning more about how you can benefit from the program, visit the HEMP KC website.

Photography by Bob Greenspan and event photos courtesy of Skyline E3


18 December, 2017 | Awards, Design, Recognition

Helix & UMKC Announce 2017 Bud Prize Competition Winner

Bud Prize finalists, left to right: Lauren Uhls, Tania Chavez and Rachel Baier.

Each Fall, Helix Architecture + Design teams up with the UMKC Department of Architecture, Urban Planning & Design for the Bud Prize – a design competition and scholarship grant awarded to students attending UMKC. The annual scholarship was created in honor of the late Bud Persons, who was a Senior Interior Architect with Helix when he unexpectedly passed away in 2002. The award recognizes the his vibrant life and work by promoting the study and knowledge of architecture and design.

This year, in honor of the eclipse, ten second-year students were challenged to design a new (fictional) building for the UMKC Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, complete with a planetarium and an observatory. Students developed drawings and models for their design concept, which they presented to the jury for feedback last Thursday afternoon.

Helix principal Doug Stockman served on the jury this year, alongside:

Joy Swallow – UMKC AUP+D, Chair
David Oliver – UMKC AUP+D Advisory Board
Aaron Schump – KSU Dept. of Architecture, Professor
Mark Brodwin – UMKC Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Astronomy Professor
Derek Moore – SOM, KCI Airport Team

There were so many exceptional projects that the jury decided to share First Prize between Tania Chavez and Lauren Uhls, and awarded Honorable Mention to Rachel Baier.

Each year the student presentations and celebration reception are open to the public so follow AUPD on Facebook for updates on future competitions.


12 December, 2017 | Academic, Art, New Construction

KCAI Chooses Helix Architecture + Design to Design Student Living Center

From left to right: Alissa Wehmueller, Tony Jones, Doug Stockman, Christopher Carvell.

The Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) announced today that they have chosen Helix to design a new 250-bed student living center and dining hall to be built on campus starting next year. The opportunity to construct a new hall of residence is possible thanks to a $10 million lead gift by an anonymous donor, given through the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation earlier this year.

For the KCAI student housing project, Helix partnered with consulting architect, Christopher Carvell Architects of Denver, Colo. Carvell has developed nationally recognized expertise in the design of “Next Generation” student life facilities.

This is a complicated project that includes not only the new 250-bed living center but also contemporary dining that will be open to the public and a large new terraced garden. “Following interviews with several firms, Helix presented a sophisticated plan on how to create a relationship between the new student living center, the new garden space and our current student housing building. The result will be a thoughtful design that takes into consideration the needs of our students, while respecting our historic Rockhill and Southmoreland neighborhoods, and advancing the college’s extensive landscape plan,” said Tony Jones, The Nerman Family President.  

Reeves Wiedeman, founding principal with Helix Architecture + Design said, “KCAI’s new student housing project will be a beacon for attracting talent to the campus and our city. It is an honor to work alongside one of the country’s leading arts education institutions to redefine the student housing experience and create a space that nurtures the creativity of these young artists.”

KCAI is a private, independent four-year college of art and design awarding the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with 13 studio majors. KCAI also offers continuing education courses. Founded in 1885, the college is Kansas City’s oldest arts organization.
Helix has worked with KCAI previously on the renovation of the Richard J. Stern Ceramics Building. We are thrilled to continue our relationship on this transformative project for incoming students and the campus.


8 December, 2017 | Awards, Helix People, Recognition

Evan Fox named AIA KC’s Volunteer of the Year

Each year AIA Kansas City recognizes individuals and organizations that have had an exceptional positive impact on the local design community at their annual holiday party. Last night Helix principal, Evan Fox was honored with the “Volunteer of the Year” award.

Since moving to Kansas City seven years ago Evan has been a leader in the local design community and an active member of Kansas City’s chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) — serving as AIA KC Design Awards Co-Chair and the AIA KC Pillars Steering Committee Chair. 

“Evan was named the 2017 Chapter Volunteer of the Year for his constant support to AIA Kansas City,” said Kristen DaMetz, AIA Kansas City Communications Director. “Evan has been a thoughtful and reliable volunteer. His help has touched many of the programs that AIA Kansas City provides from Design Excellence Awards and Pillars to Education Outreach and our website redesign. We can always count on Evan to lend a hand or an idea.”

Throughout the course of his career, Evan has worked on prominent corporate and developer led projects throughout the Midwest, including Corrigan Station and the Creamery Building renovation in the Crossroads Arts District; AMC’s Theatre Support Center in Leawood, Kansas; and Olsson Associates Headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska. Prior to moving to Kansas City he worked in Chicago on corporate headquarters and high-rise residential projects.

In addition to overseeing staffing, project management and technology initiatives for the firm, Evan is a mentor to his fellow team members. He is known for his wealth of knowledge on the technical aspects of architecture, new technology platforms that enhance efficiency/communication and rock bands of the 70’s.   

Congratulations, Evan. In honor of this occasion we will crank up the Journey and toast to you this afternoon!  


6 December, 2017 | Design, New Construction, Workplace

Building Culture & Value Through Cohesive Real Estate Design

Olsson Associates

When Helix principal Erika Moody started working with Olsson Associates (Olsson) five years ago, the growing company was on track to reach a new milestone – 1,000 employees. With continued growth anticipated, they wanted to create a workplace environment that reinforced their culture in a cohesive manner as they charted their course forward.

Today, Olsson has more than exceeded those expectations. With offices across the Midwest and Southwest, they are continuing to expand their team and diversify their engineering services. Throughout this expansion, Erika has been a strategic partner to the firm overseeing the design of each of their offices.

The first project completed was the design of Olsson’s headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska’s historic Haymarket District. The new 80,000-square-feet office building wraps around a central courtyard that provides daylight and views throughout the building, creating layers of interest both inside and out. The scope of work included programming, core and shell design, as well as interior architecture, furniture selection/procurement and custom furniture design.

Since that time, Helix has partnered with Olsson on the design of fourteen additional office projects. The goal has been to showcase their brand and the unique identity of each office, while standardizing workstations, meeting places and gathering spaces. Olsson CEO Brad Strittmatter shared, “We return to Helix because they really understand how to create great spaces where our employees thrive. They keep our offices on the forefront of our industry – while diligently maintaining our project budget.”

Olsson Associates

In each new office, there are a few commonalities. To make the greeting consistent from place to place, visitors encounter a simplified reception. The green from the Olsson logo is always incorporated in a small, but prominent way, and workstations have been streamlined throughout. As locations are updated, break rooms are also being transformed into inviting cafés.

To make these additions more seamless, the Helix team created a process for procuring furniture, implemented furniture and finish packages and aligned Olsson with vendors who can supply products to multiple offices. These practices have helped Olsson buy items at a discounted rate through corporate contracts, as opposed to purchasing pieces one-off at a premium.

Although Olsson was looking for a unified identity, they continue to value the uniqueness of each office. Furniture and finish packages provide a range of choices to office leaders, and each location includes personalized elements, like a feature wall and custom artwork. These details allow local leadership to personalize their space without sacrificing efficiency.

While standards are in place, the design team continues to bring forward new ideas and test concepts, like taller work tables or customized storage for large drawings, at a single location. This allows both parties to see how items perform on a smaller scale before rolling it out to each of their offices.

Establishing an internal representative and single design firm to lead every project has resulted in time and cost savings for Olsson. Designers can quickly supply critical items, like floor plans and finish schedules, while Olsson’s representative ensures projects are aligned with the budget and design standards. With less time spent managing each effort and ensuring an exceptional design for their spaces, Olsson Associates can focus on what matters most – providing great design experiences for their clients.

Photography by Michael Robinson.


15 November, 2017 | Awards

Boulevard Brewing Co.’s Tours & Recreation Center Wins ‘Professional’s Choice’ at AIA KC’s annual Design Excellence Awards

Each year the Kansas City architecture community gathers to celebrate the latest and greatest design within our city at AIA Kansas City’s Design Excellence Awards. We are honored that one of our projects – the Boulevard Tours & Recreation Center – was selected by our peers for the “Professionals Choice” award.

Helix worked with Boulevard Brewing Co. to transform a 1920’s-era warehouse into a destination for tours, tastings and experiencing Boulevard Brewing Company’s culture. The concrete frame and masonry skin of the building were in exceptional condition but the interior had been turned into office space in the ‘90s. The design team stripped the interior down to its raw, industrial roots revealing beautiful exposed concrete and original brick walls.

The program demanded openness and connectivity throughout the facility to enhance traffic flow and to maximize each visitor’s experience. While the existing building presented constraints, the design concept integrated two large perforations up to the second floor to create a new circulation path and provide clear flow throughout the building.


Boulevard’s unwavering commitment to authenticity, sustainability and craftsmanship was expressed through the selected materials as well as numerous collaborations with local craftsman, who created custom installations in almost every aspect of construction. As a zero-waste company, special attention was giving to employing recycled and repurposed materials, strategies for energy efficiency, reduction of water use and construction waste recycling.

The project has been an overwhelming success, attracting out-of-town visitors and locals, alike. In addition to being recognized by AIA Kansas City, the project has also received a Gold Award in the Hospitality Category at the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Mid America Design Awards (MADA), a Capstone Award from the Kansas City Business Journal and a Cornerstone Award from the Kansas City Economic Development Corporation.

Design, engineering and construction partners included: Carpenter Collective, Crossland Construction, BGR Engineers, Bob D. Campbell, Santee Becker, Walter P Moore Civil Engineering, Palomino Woodworks, Hammer Out Design and KC Structural Steel.

Take a look at the new Tours & Recreation Center in this walk-through video:


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