23 November, 2016 | Awards, Historic Renovation, Recognition

Kansas City Police Headquarters Named “Project of the Year” at AIA Kansas City’s 2016 Design Excellence Awards

As a firm that focuses on people-centered design, we measure our success on the impact a building has on the people it serves – how it functions and the experience it creates. At Helix, we are perpetually in search of these opportunities to go beyond the functional need of a space and create an exceptional environment and experience.

One such project is the renovation and expansion of the Kansas City Police Department Headquarters, which was recently named “Project of the Yearand received an “Honor Award” in the Architecture category at AIA Kansas City’s 2016 Design Excellence Awards.

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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. The pattern of the concrete structural roof system in the new addition is adapted from Art Deco details that are found throughout the historic Police Headquarters building in both ornamental and functional roles.

“The headquarters renovation was a daunting project at the onset. Several of the 8 floors had not been updated since they were built in 1938.  With the vision of Helix Architecture and the dedicated work by JE Dunn, the end result has been nothing short of amazing.”

–  Major Sharon Laningham, Kansas City Police Department

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The 2016 AIA Kansas City Design Award jury was comprised of nationally recognized designers, including Luis Bernardo, principal with Design Collective, Inc.; Luanne Greene, president of Ayers Saint Gross and Steve Ziger, partner with Ziger/Snead Architects. Jury comments included:

“The Kansas City Police Dept. project says everything that’s right about how a police department relates to its community. They took a limited program and communicated a welcoming civic presence that communicates that the police are an integral part of their community. This is civic architecture at its finest.”

-Steve Ziger, AIA, partner with Ziger/Snead Architects

“This one as soon as I opened up the file it was like, whoa, this is a winner this is probably going to be the grand winner. It was such a powerful and strong statement right from the get go… The program was really just bathrooms, a fire stair and a small meeting room. But what they did with that and how they took the details of the building and transformed that into this whole new ceiling structure that just comes alive at night with light, the incorporation of public art, it really spoke to what a public building can be. And in these times for it to be an addition to the police headquarters, of course, is a great moment for the community. It was everybody’s number one project.”

-Luis Bernardo, FAIA
, principal with Design Collective, Inc.

“The Kansas City Police Department Headquarters was such a beautiful project in many ways but really poignant and timely for us. The day that we got together and reviewed all the projects was a day that the news cycle was completely dominated by communities and struggles, frankly, with their police departments. At a time when our country is really struggling with these complex issues it was really wonderful to see a project where such an important civic institution as the police department headquarters project really spoke to the strength and spirit of community for Kansas City.”

-Luanne Greene, FAIA, president of Ayers Saint Gross

You can watch the full video of jury comments here:kcpd-video-screen-capture

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


21 November, 2016 | Academic, Awards, Design

Kansas City University Academic Center Receives “Honor Award” at AIA Kansas City’s 2016 Design Excellence Awards

As a firm that focuses on people-centered design, we measure our success on the impact a building has on the people it serves – how it functions and the experience it creates. At Helix, we are perpetually in search of these opportunities to go beyond the functional need of a space and create an exceptional environment and experience.

One of our projects that exemplifies this approach, the  Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences (KCU) Academic Center was recently recognized with an “Honor Award” in the Interior Architecture category at AIA Kansas City’s annual Design Excellence awards

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The KCU Academic Center renovation transformed an underutilized, 1,500-seat auditorium into a state-of-the-art learning facility that features two auditoriums along with ancillary classrooms and study space. The design team developed the innovative concept of stacking the 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 and achieved LEED Silver Certification.

As Tim Saxe, KCU’s Director of Capital Projects shared, “The project deserves to be recognized not only for the exceptional space it creates for our students – both functionally and aesthetically – but also for the architect’s creative reuse of an underutilized building to address a critical campus need. The response from all stakeholders has been overwhelmingly positive. A building that was once largely empty is now a hub of student activity, and our faculty has recognized it as one of the best spaces they have taught in.”

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The 2016 AIA Kansas City Design Award jury was comprised of nationally recognized designers, including Luis Bernardo, principal with Design Collective, Inc.; Luanne Greene, president of Ayers Saint Gross and Steve Ziger, partner with Ziger/Snead Architects.

Very few projects were as simple and pure as this one was. The notion of literally this found space they took one theatre and then created a classroom within that theatre made the building so much better, very sustainable idea… It literally doubled the square footage and the functions within the structure. The other thing that we appreciated was that given the new restraint in terms of what you had left in terms with volume and size was the use of color, they essentially just used one color, this color red and then a little bit of wood to add texture, everything else was white. And so we thought that was very powerful and a really nice way of bringing the strength of the idea through; nothing got lost. It was a very simple move and we appreciated it because of that.”

-Luis Bernardo, FAIA
, principal with Design Collective, Inc.

You can watch the full video of jury comments here:
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The project also received a Merit Award for Interior Architecture at AIA Central States 2015 Design Excellence Awards.

Congratulations to our clients at Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences, our construction partners at McCownGordon Construction, our engineering partners and all of our Helix design team members. Successful projects are only achieved through strong relationships across all team members and these awards truly belong to all of you.


17 November, 2016 | Awards, Design, Innovative, Recognition, Renovation

Helix Architecture + Design Receives Top Honors at AIA Kansas City Design Excellence Awards

As a firm that focuses on people-centered design we measure our success on the impact a building has on the people it serves – how it functions and the experience it creates. Sometimes it’s a simple gesture, an unexpected use of materials or unique form that transforms a space and takes it from good to great. At Helix, we are perpetually in search of these opportunities to go beyond the functional need of a space and create an exceptional environment and experience.

On Friday evening, two Helix projects that embody this approach were recognized with three AIA Kansas City Design Excellence Awards, including the top honor, “Project of the Year.”  The Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences Academic Center received an “Honor Award” in the Interior Architecture category and the renovation and expansion of the Kansas City Police Department Headquarters brought home both an “Honor Award” in the Architecture category and the highest award of the evening, “Project of the Year.”

KCU Academic Center: Interior Architecture Honor Award

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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.

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Jury Comments:

Very few projects were as simple and pure as this one was. The notion of literally this found space they took one theatre and then created a classroom within that theatre made the building so much better, very sustainable idea… It literally doubled the square footage and the functions within the structure. The other thing that we appreciated was that given the new restraint in terms of what you had left in terms with volume and size was the use of color, they essentially just used one color, this color red and then a little bit of wood to add texture, everything else was white. And so we thought that was very powerful and a really nice way of bringing the strength of the idea through; nothing got lost. It was a very simple move and we appreciated it because of that.”

  • Luis Bernardo, FAIA
, principal with Design Collective, Inc.

 

You can watch the full video of jury comments here:

kcu-video-screen-capture

 

Kansas City Police Headquarters : Project of the Year + Architecture Honor Award

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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. The pattern of the concrete structural roof system in the new addition is adapted from Art Deco details that are found throughout the historic Police Headquarters building in both ornamental and functional roles.

Helix_KCPDHQ_ExtDet_0258_LR

Jury Comments:

“The Kansas City Police Dept. project says everything that’s right about how a police department relates to its community. They took a limited program and communicated a welcoming civic presence that communicates that the police are an integral part of their community. This is civic architecture at its finest.”

  • Steve Ziger, AIA, partner with Ziger/Snead Architects

 

“This one as soon as I opened up the file it was like, whoa, this is a winner this is probably going to be the grand winner. It was such a powerful and strong statement right from the get go… The program was just really bathrooms, a fire stair and a small meeting room. But what they did with that and how they took the details of the building and transformed that into this whole new ceiling structure that just comes alive at night with light, the incorporation of public art, it really spoke to what a public building can be. And in these times for it to be an addition to the police headquarters of course is a great moment for the community. It was everybody’s number one project.”

  • Luis Bernardo, FAIA
, principal with Design Collective, Inc.

 

“The Kansas City Police Department Headquarters was such a beautiful project in many ways but really poignant and timely for us. The day that we got together and reviewed all the projects was a day that the news cycle was completely dominated by communities and struggles frankly with their police departments. At a time when our country is really struggling with these complex issues it was really wonderful to see a project where such an important civic institution as the police department headquarters project really spoke to the strength and spirit of community for Kansas City.”

  • Luanne Greene, FAIA, president of Ayers Saint Gross

 

You can watch the full video of jury comments here:kcpd-video-screen-capture

The 2016 AIA Kansas City design award jury was comprised of nationally recognized designers, including Luis Bernardo, principal with Design Collective, Inc.; Luanne Greene, president of Ayers Saint Gross and Steve Ziger, partner with Ziger/Snead Architects.

Congratulations to our clients at the Kansas City Police Department and Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences, our construction partners at JE Dunn Construction and McCownGordon Construction, all of our engineering partners and our Helix design team members. Successful projects are only achieved through strong relationships across all team members and these awards truly belong to all of you.


Kansas City Police Department Builds Community Through New Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

The Leon Mercer Jordan Campus, located at the corner of 27th and Prospect, serves as so much more than the East Patrol Division Station for Kansas City Police Department and the new Regional Crime Lab. The new campus, completed in spring 2016, is already having an impact for neighboring citizens by integrating spaces that foster relationships between KCPD and residents.

Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

The campus represents an unprecedented investment in the Third District of Kansas City, Missouri, which since it’s opening has encouraged further development in the neighborhood and made a difference in the lives of many. The East Patrol Division Station houses a large community room, computer access lab and gymnasium specifically designed for public use – the vision of Police Chief Darryl Forté.

“It’s not just a police station. It’s a place where people can gather — where they can do homework, play a game of basketball or have a neighborhood meeting in a safe and supportive environment.” Chief Forté told the Kansas City Star.

For one youth basketball team, that meant a dream come true. The team of 8th graders were able to move from an outdated half-court practice space into a brand new facility (not to mention a full-court all to themselves!) The community room is already being used in so many ways, most recently book club meetings and a veteran breakfast.

Gymnasium at Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

East Patrol Art in ArchitectureLeft: Sculpture by Des Moines, IA artist David Dahlquist features pottery thrown by local youths. Volunteers from the Kansas City Art Institute and the KC Clay Guild assisted the teens in creating the large thrown bowls. Right: “Community Dignity” glazed brick art installation by Sonie Joi Thompson-Ruffin.

The design also incorporated several art pieces, two of which are located at the entrances of both the East Patrol Division Station and the Crime Lab facilities. The installations are architectural interpretations of artwork created by local artist Sonie Joi Thompson-Ruffin. The pieces, called Community Dignity (shown above right) and iNeema (located on the Crime Lab building), are inspired by American and African culture. Helix worked with Mrs. Ruffin to incorporate her art into the detailing of two glazed masonry feature walls, creating a visual of “quilts” on the front porches of these two campus buildings.

The large stand-alone piece outside the main public entrance of East Patrol Division Station is a result of Kansas City’s One Percent for Art program; artist David Dahlquist involved local youths and neighbors in its creation (shown above left).

“It’s asking the community to be invested in it,” artist David Dahlquist said in a press release put out by ArtsTech – a nonprofit organization dedicated to bettering young people through arts and technical education. “The piece is about something peaceful, contemplative.”

20160425-dougherty-076-eastpatrol-sAbove: Large community room features a wooden wall made from trees harvested on the site of the building; the opposite wall displays a timeline highlighting the history of African-American police officers. The exhibit was designed by Dimensional Innovations.

Above: The public computer room is open to local schoolchildren, families and community members without internet access or computers at home. The lab features artwork by ArtsTech’s Aaron Sutton. Above: The public computer room is open to local schoolchildren, families and community members without internet access or computers at home. The lab features artwork by ArtsTech’s Aaron Sutton.

The new campus is anticipated to be a redevelopment catalyst for the Prospect Avenue Corridor and its surrounding neighborhoods. City Architect Eric Bosch said this unprecedented investment in the Third District of Kansas City and this neighborhood has already been reflected positively in other recent projects in the community area.

“The city is already working on a new grocery store just seven or eight blocks away, which the neighborhood never really had before,” Bosch stated in a post on KCPD’s SaferKC blog. “They’re also putting in an express bus line going right in front of the station, which will allow more connectivity to other public transportation throughout the city. The church next door to us is also expanding through the development of a community center, and it’s the timing of our facility that made that happen.”

KCPD Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

Another key aspect of the project is the way it improves efficiency for everyone who will use the facility, including police officers, employees and the general public.

“The old station was too small and the layout did not allow for the most effective operation,” Major Sharon Laningham, Construction Division of the Kansas City Missouri Police Department said on SaferKC.com. “We learned from nearly 20 years of experience of how police stations work. The new station is more efficient, officers move through their routines quickly and get out on the street faster. 

The state-of-the-art Regional Crime Lab and the Property Evidence Depository were meticulously programmed to allow for a more efficient working environment for lab teams and other crime lab staff too. The new Crime Lab, a collaboration between Helix and Wellner Architects, is also better located to collect crime scene evidence and be in closer proximity to the Courts, saving time and money for the KCPD. 

KCPD Leon Mercer Jordan Campus

“By combining several critical capital improvement projects on one campus, we achieve economies of scale and use the Public Safety Sales Tax dollars in the most prudent way possible,” said former Colonel Jerry Gallagher of the Kansas City Police Department.

The project is considered a successful model for achieving and exceeding the city’s goals for minority business participation throughout the planning, design and construction process. Helix along with the City of Kansas City, Missouri and joint venture contractors JE Dunn and Alexander Mechanical, were proud to exceed the minority business enterprise (MBE) and women business enterprise (WBE) goals.

The project surpassed these goals, achieving to date:

  • MBE/WBE participation for professional service contracts = 40%
  • MBE/WBE participation for construction services = 30%
  • Section 3 participation for construction services = 16.6%
  • Overall MBE/WBE/Section 3 participation on the East Patrol Crime Lab = more than 52%
  • Overall Section 3 New Hires = 101

 

It’s clear to see the significance of this project by the amount of recognition it’s receiving – a KCBJ Capstone Award and an EDC Cornerstone Award.

All photography by Aaron Dougherty.


23 September, 2016 | Academic, Historic Renovation, Renovation

Renovation transforms Norrington Hall into a high-tech library and academic commons for Park University

Park University students started the school year with a new (old) addition to campus. Norrington Hall, the only functioning Carnegie Library on a college campus in Missouri, underwent a dramatic renovation to transform it into a new academic commons focused on access to information through technology.

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Located in the heart of Park University’s campus, next to iconic Mackay Hall, Norrington Hall has housed various uses since the library relocated to a new location on campus in 1988. Park University, under new leadership, strategically proposed the library return to its original home in Norrington Hall and become a state-of-the-art academic commons.

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As an academic commons, the design features a variety of spaces to support on site as well as distance learning and foster a sense of community between students, faculty and staff. Key spaces include collaborative and private study areas, a technology-rich classroom featuring mobile furniture and white boards (even on the desk tops), and a centralized coffee shop located just inside the new main entry that will create a destination on campus for students, faculty and staff to study and socialize.

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The coffee shop also offers outdoor seating on a new terrace overlooking improved pedestrian-friendly grounds. This outdoor space links Norrington and Mackay Hall and creates a new campus quad with centralized greenspace for assembly and play, right at the foot of these historic and iconic campus structures.

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A new special event venue, the Campanella Art Gallery, will feature student and professional art exhibits.

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Now that the fall semester is in full swing you can find Norrington Center filled with activity. Although much has changed since Norrington was first built as a Carnegie Library in 1906, we are incredibly proud of being part of the team that returned the building to a place of knowledge-sharing and learning.  #ParkProud

All images by Michael Robinson Photography


Helix Architecture + Design and Blackbird Design Studio Announce Merger

Newly integrated firm will offer expanded resources, combined leadership and award-winning design talent

Kansas City is experiencing unprecedented real estate development right now, a golden era of investment in our community. Helix Architecture + Design and Blackbird Design Studio recognized an opportunity to strengthen their position in the marketplace by joining forces. The merger will offer clients access to combined leadership, expanded resources and unrivaled design talent.

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“The pace of change within our industry is rapidly accelerating,” said Reeves Wiedeman, founding principal of Helix Architecture + Design. “New firms bring fresh ideas and different approaches to the way we have always done things; established firms bring a depth of knowledge, experience and stability. We see other firms locally and nationally following one of these two paths. In merging Helix and Blackbird we are bringing together the best of both worlds – stability, mentorship, extraordinary talent, a nimble approach to change and the ability to truly lead the industry into its next era.”

The impact of Helix and Blackbird’s work is present throughout Kansas City’s streetscape, boardrooms and academic halls. Their portfolio of work spans venues for the arts and local restaurant concepts to new civic buildings and some of the largest corporate headquarters in the city. While both firms maintain diverse practices, each brings complementary expertise to the merger.

“We started Blackbird Design Studio to chart our own course, elevate design and elevate our city. Over the last three years we have continuously had the opportunity to do that,” said Erika Moody, founding principal with Blackbird Design Studio. “This merger allows us to continue what we started on a larger scale; it allows us to be stronger, better, faster with a team and network in place that will help us continue to propel our city, and our region, forward.”

people3The Helix + Blackbird team

So how did two firms go from mutual admiration to marriage?

The relationship between Helix and Blackbird started as a partnership to land a new client both firms were pursuing. When a trusted industry partner, who knows both firms well, asked firm leaders if they had considered making this partnership permanent it set the wheels in motion. The two firms had complementary areas of expertise, culturally similar studio environments and a shared vision for the quality of work they wanted to create. With large projects on the horizon, they were eager to begin working together. Things moved quickly from there.

For nearly 25 years Helix Architecture + Design has operated in downtown Kansas City. Long known for their experience renovating some of the city’s most notable landmarks, Helix has become a go-to firm for building owners and developers investing in the urban core. The firm’s civic engagement and advocacy for investing in the arts and education has also resulted in a substantial portfolio of work for the city’s top academic and cultural institutions. They are currently leading some of the most significant projects in downtown Kansas City, including the renovation of Traders Towers into a “smart” apartment building, the new Crossroads Westside development, the transformation of the historic Pickwick Plaza hotel and bus depot into a new mixed-use development, the ongoing transformation of Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences’ campus in the historic Northeast, the recently completed Boulevard Brewing Co. Visitor Center and the University of Missouri – Kansas City’s proposed Conservatory of Music and Dance in the Crossroads Arts District.

Helix_ProjectsStarting top left, going clockwise: KCU Academic Center, Boulevard Brewing Co. Visitor’s Center, KCPD Headquarters, Traders Tower, University of Kansas Medical Center – Health Education Building, UMKC Downtown Conservatory of Music & Dance.

When Moody and co-founder Trevor Hoiland started Blackbird, they brought with them an extensive portfolio of corporate office projects. During their time as principals with 360 Architecture they led the design of the H&R Block’s world headquarters, AMC’s new Theatre Support Center and the renovation and expansion of Black & Veatch’s world headquarters. Since founding Blackbird they have built upon this expertise to grow their portfolio of corporate office projects throughout the region while expanding to other markets. Current and recently completed projects include Olsson Associates corporate headquarters and multiple regional offices, the renovation of the Creamery Building into flexible office suites for small to mid-sized companies, Synergy Services Children’s Campus, an award-winning office and showroom for furniture manufacturer HighTower, the headquarters for rapidly growing tech company Valorem Consulting and Corrigan Station, a mixed-use development that includes the renovation of the historic Corrigan Building and adjacent new construction that will house office and retail space.

Blkbrd_ProjectsStarting top left, going clockwise: HighTower Furniture, Shepherd Residence, Olsson Associates headquarters, Corrigan Station, Synergy Services Children’s Center.

As Helix and Blackbird merge operations, these niches fit together well, each expanding upon the experience and expertise of the other. Culturally the two firms were a natural fit as well. Within both design shops, passion and humor go hand in hand.

“We love what we do; we take our work seriously but not ourselves,” said Hoiland. “We recognize that our clients are trusting us with a significant investment; they are letting us help shape not only their physical environment but their culture, their vision and their brand. We want the end result to be special but also make the process enjoyable along the way.”

Both firms also share a similar philosophy that leadership within the community is a key component of their business. Each of the firm’s principals and many of their staff invest significant time on behalf of civic and non-profit organizations.

“We believe that investing in the arts, education and a strong urban core is central to the vibrancy of our city,” said Jay Tomlinson, founding principal of Helix Architecture + Design. “Design is a key component of our commitment but equally important is our engagement in the broader issues that are impacting our community.”

The firm will consolidate operations into Helix’s existing headquarters in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District. Existing Helix leadership comprised of Wiedeman, Tomlinson, Michael Heule, Bryan Gross, Kristine Sutherlin and Alissa Wehmueller will expand to include Blackbird principals, Moody, Hoiland and Evan Fox. The firm will continue to operate under the Helix Architecture + Design name but launched a new brand identity in tandem with the merger.


29 July, 2016 | Academic, Art, Culture, Hospitality, Renovation

Designing Spaces that Nurture the Arts: Renovation of the Olson Performing Arts Center for the KCRep & UMKC

There is a reason that Kansas City consistently ranks among the top cities in the country for the arts; as a city, we invest in the people and places that are nurturing creative talent. At Helix, we are proud that we have been able to work with some of the city’s top arts and cultural organizations to create spaces that inspire, serve and engage patrons and artists alike.

Helix, KC Rep, Kansas City MORecently, this includes the $6.5 million renovation and expansion of the James C. Olson Performing Arts Center for the Kansas City Repertory Theatre and the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC). Located on the UMKC campus, the newly renovated building gives both organizations a home that showcases the talented artists that it serves.

“We’ve really made it into one of the most beautiful (regional) theaters, from what had been a really dated 1979 building,” Eric Rosen, the Kansas City Rep’s artistic director shared with KCUR at the building’s ribbon cutting. “Now we have a building that matches the quality and caliber of of the national work that we put on our stage here at Spencer.”

Helix, KC Rep, Kansas City MO

The Helix design team placed a strong emphasis on not only technical needs for the theatre itself, but the overall patron experience. The renovation included an expansion of the lobby, substantial improvements to the Spencer Theatre performance space, an expanded patron lounge, new ADA compliant restrooms and expanded concessions.

If you haven’t been to a performance in the new space yet, here’s a sneak peak at the transformation.

Spencer Theatre Improvements at UMKCImprovements within the performance space, including a new stage, lighting, acoustics and seats, enhance the experience for both patrons and performers.

Before & After of the Olson Performing Arts Center at UMKC Lobby

The expanded lobby features a centrally located bar, a variety of seating options and additional space for patrons to socialize before shows and during intermission.

Before & After of Olson Performing Arts Center at UMKC

Exterior renovations and the expanded lobby creates a stronger identity for UMKC and the KCRep while enhancing the building’s presence on campus.

The outcome is an environment that celebrates the arts while setting the stage for an experience that is much more than just a show. We highly recommend experiencing the space yourself at an upcoming performance. The KCRep’s 2016-2017 season starts September 9 with “Evita.” UMKC’s theatre department posts their full season of shows on their website.

Photography by Michael Robinson.


10 Kansas City Buildings Celebrating 100 Years

Here at Helix we love old buildings, so it’s no surprise that our own office has quite a history. It was built in 1916 as the Exide Battery Factory and officially turns 100-years-old this year. We shared a blog post last week about the history of our own building and it made us curious what other buildings in Kansas City share a similar history. Here are some of our favorites!

1. Exide Battery Depot (Helix Architecture + Design), 1916

Located in the heart of the Crossroads at 17th and Walnut, the Exide Battery Building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of thirteen buildings that are part of the historic Walnut Street Warehouse and Commercial Historic District. It was originally designed by architect Herman Stroeh and built by Fogel Construction.

Read the full history of the Helix building from last week’s blog.

Historic Exide Battery Deport photo | The interior of the Helix building before construction began. Historic Exide Battery Deport photo | The interior of the Helix building before construction began.

2. H.E. Lee Mercantile Company, 1917

This building located in the Crossroads Historic Freight District – 2019 Wyandotte – was built in the early 1900’s. It was home to the H.D. Lee Mercantile Company, simply “Lee” today.  A producer of work apparel, namely denim, the building was completed in 1917, shortly after Lee’s invention of the “Union-All” overalls. These overalls, which could quickly be pulled over work wear would become the official uniform of American Doughboys in 1917 during WWI. This manufacturing and distribution center operated until mid-century when a flood wiped out the entirety of the factory’s merchandise. Today the building is home to the Piper Lofts, but it’s history is a reminder of the creativity and hard work that our great city was founded on.

Lee's Union Alls, invented in 1913 and manufactured in Kansas City's Crossroads Historic Freight District. H.D. Lee Mercantile Company, 1917 | H.D. Lee Mercantile Building in the Historic Freight District of Kansas City, circa 1928.Lee’s Union Alls, invented in 1913 and manufactured in Kansas City’s Crossroads Historic Freight District. H.D. Lee Mercantile Company, 1917. H.D. Lee Mercantile Building in the Historic Freight District of Kansas City, circa 1928.

3. Union Station, 1914

This monumental and iconic 850,000 square foot building, located at 30 W. Pershing Road, is one of the most stunning buildings in the city. During it’s lifetime as a functioning train station, until the 1980’s when the station closed, this space accommodated hundreds of thousands of passengers. Traffic at Union Station peaked during WWI with nearly 80,000 trains passing through the station (approximately 270 trains a day)! To give an idea of scale, the three major arches on the front facade are nearly 90 feet in height. Most recently it was the location of the biggest rally Kansas City has ever seen- the celebration of the Kansas City Royal’s World Series Championship. Reminding the city that, even at 100 years old, she still knows how to party.

Union Station during construction in the 1910's & Union Station last fall during the Royal's Celebration rally. Union Station during construction in the 1910’s & Union Station last fall during the Royal’s Celebration rally.

4. Coca-Cola Building (Western Auto Building), 1914

You may know this uniquely shaped 12-story building on 21st and Grand as the Western Auto Building, but this 100 year old treasure was once the regional headquarters of Coca-Cola in Kansas City. Built in 1914, this building was designed based on the pie-shaped plot of land it was to be built on. The building was later sold to Western Auto in 1948, and it’s iconic “Western Auto” sign was placed on top of it in 1952. This building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988 and is now is home to residential loft condos. From Coke to cars to condos, this pie in sky is a great slice of KC history.

Coca-Cola Buiding, built by the Candler family (owners of the soda company) and designed by Arthur C. Tufts. With the curved facade of the building, it may be one of Tufts most unique designs. | An original plan of the building, part of the building's 1988 submission for the National Register of Historic Places. Coca-Cola Buiding, built by the Candler family (owners of the soda company) and designed by Arthur C. Tufts. With the curved facade of the building, it may be one of Tufts most unique designs. An original plan of the building, part of the building’s 1988 submission for the National Register of Historic Places.

5. First Children’s Mercy Hospital (Kansas City University), 1915

Construction on Children’s Mercy Hospital’s first hospital building was completed in 1915 at 1750 Independence Avenue. That hospital would eventually become the home of Kansas City University‘s administration building in 1921. In 2015 that building, as well as their academic center were renovated  in partnership with Helix to ensure their students can utilize it for the next 100 years. Interestingly enough, although the school and building both had their starts separate of one another, they are both celebrating their centennial in the same year. Congrats KCU on 100 years!

The former Children's Mercy Hospital, now home to Kansas City University's Administration Building, was recently renovated by Helix. The former Children’s Mercy Hospital, now home to Kansas City University’s Administration Building, was recently renovated by Helix.

6. Federal Reserve Bank, 1914

The first Federal Reserve Bank building in Kansas City, located at 928 Grand, opened in 1914, as a temporary home, until the official building across the street, at 925 Grand, could be built and opened in 1921. That building, was home to President Harry S. Truman’s office following his return from the White House in 1953 until the Truman Library opened four years later. Pictured below is the location at 925 Grand in the historic Financial District of KC; the bank announced its relocation to 29th & Main in 2002, just south of Liberty Memorial, where it houses The Money Museum. There you can see billions of dollars in the vault, hold a 27 lb. gold bar or explore President Truman’s impressive coin collection.

Federal Reserve Building building on 9th & Grand circa 1928, and now in present day. Federal Reserve Building building on 9th & Grand circa 1928, and now in present day.

7. Rockhurst College (Rockhurst University), 1914

Construction of Sedgwick Hall, located on the westside of Rockhurst‘s campus (53rd & Troost), was completed in 1914. Thus began many young men’s high school education. The 25 acres of land had been purchased by Reverend Michael Dowling, the founder of the college, in 1909. College courses were first offered in 1917 and today this campus educates roughly 3,000 students. Today, Sedgwick Hall houses Mabee Theater, classrooms and several faculty offices.

Sedgwick Hall, built in 1914, was the first building on the Rockhurst University campus. First graduating class at Rockhurst College. Sedgwick Hall, built in 1914, was the first building on the Rockhurst University campus. First graduating class at Rockhurst College.

8. Paseo YMCA, 1914

Built in 1914 after Julius Rosenwald pushed residents of the city to raise $80,000, this YMCA was the first civic center in KC built to serve African Americans. However, the building’s most significant historic value lies in the year 1920. That was the year eight independent black negro baseball team owners met over lunch in this very spot. They formed the Negro National League and later the Negro Leagues. Just a short walk down from the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, the space was just recently converted into the Buck O’Neil Education & Research Center, the latest addition to the museum. This historically and culturally rich building is an important part of Kansas City past. Seeing it restored and used today brings so much to the 18th & Vine district.

The Paseo YMCA was a large community effort that successfully resourced the neighborhood with the YMCA's facilities. The Paseo YMCA was a large community effort that successfully resourced the neighborhood with the YMCA’s facilities.

The north side of the Paseo YMCA building, today the Buck O'Neil Education & Research Center, is home to these murals depicting the Kansas City Monarchs. The south side of the Paseo YMCA building, today the Buck O’Neil Education & Research Center, is home to these murals depicting the Kansas City Monarchs.

9. Muehlebach Hotel (Marriott Downtown), 1915

The son of Muehlebach Beer Company‘s founder, George E. Muehlbach Jr., bought the former First Baptist Church on the southwest corner of 12th & Baltimore in 1913. After demolishing the building, he completed this 12 story hotel for $2 million dollars in 1915. The hotel went onto be visited by every President from Theodore Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan, and celebrities such as Helen Keller, Ernest Hemingway, Babe Ruth, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and The Beatles. After changing ownership several times from 1960 until 1996, Marriott Hotels bought the building and made it into an extension of their existing downtown location. The original lobby and ballrooms have been restored and are used today as banquet halls.

Historic Muehlebach Hotel as it was in 1915 seen in this promotional post card. The State Suite was the location that the Muehlebach's finest guests would have stayed - including many U.S. Presidents. The Plantation Grill inside historic Muehlebach Hotel. Historic Muehlebach Hotel as it was in 1915 seen in this promotional post card. The State Suite was the location that the Muehlebach’s finest guests would have stayed – including many U.S. Presidents. The Plantation Grill inside historic Muehlebach Hotel.

10. Firestone Building, 1915

Built in 1915 by Firestone Tire & Rubber, this building was the largest investment the company had made to date: $300,000. Harvey S. Firestone chose Kansas City mainly for its “good roads,” and its central location to many farming communities and business opportunities – knowing the farming industry would be a key to the success of his company.

At the southeast corner of 20th & Grand, this site was considered midtown 100 years ago, but today it is a part of the Crossroads Arts District. Currently the first and eighth floors are used as an event space with other commercial tenants occupying the other floors of the building. If you look closely when driving by, you can still see the glowing historic Firestone letters in the windows – one letter on each floor.

The Firestone building today, with historical sign lettering, used as an event space. This image of the elevations were a part of its submission for the National Register of Historic Places. The Firestone building today, with historical sign lettering, used as an event space. This image of the elevations were a part of its submission for the National Register of Historic Places.


From Battery Depot to Design Laboratory – 100 Years of History

One-hundred years ago the the Electric Storage Battery Company opened a new Exide Battery Depot at the corner of 17th and Walnut Streets in Kansas City, Missouri. Today, that building is home to the Helix Architecture + Design team. As we celebrate this milestone occasion, it seemed appropriate to dig a bit deeper into the history behind these four walls.

Designed in 1916 by German-born Kansas City architect Herman Stoeh, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of thirteen buildings that are part of the historic Walnut Street Warehouse and Commercial Historic District. According to National Park Service records, “the introduction and ensuing success of the cable car and electric trolley had much to do with the overall development of the Walnut Street Warehouse and Commercial District area.”

Exide HistoricHistoric image of 1629 Walnut / The original newspaper announcement for the building in the May 13, 1916 issue of Electrical Review and Western Electrician Magazine.

Innovative Beginnings

The Electric Storage Battery Co. had it’s start and major boom in business growth in the late 1800’s. The batteries – or “Chloride Accumulators” as they were called – were on the cutting edge and as soon as their usefulness caught on, demand picked up. Their first big break into the automotive industry was an order for 13,000 cells to power six new electric streetcars in Philadelphia. This shift in demand forced the company into larger facilities. From there, the company moved onto luxury railroad cars, small batteries for fans, sewing machines, telephone exchanges and phonographs, and then in 1898, the first submarine in the U.S. This same technology was even used to transmit the first transcontinental telephone service and wireless telegraph transmission.

Exide Battery BrandHistoric Exide battery advertisements throughout the years

In 1910, the company developed it’s first new battery used in electric taxicabs with greater energy capacity and less weight. These models bore the “Exide” brand name for the first time. From that time on, the company was pioneering automobile battery technology. The Exide Battery Depot at 17th and Walnut was one of many locations that manufactured, stored and sold these innovative new batteries.

A Second Life

As with many buildings in the Crossroads, the Exide Battery Depot sat abandoned for many years before Helix renovated the two story structure into our offices in 2003.  We retained the historic integrity of the building while transforming the empty interior space into a people-centered design laboratory dedicated to building community and inspiring collaboration. From within these walls our talented team has impacted the lives of thousands of people who live, work and play in the spaces we design.

Helix Before1629 Walnut before Helix renovated the building

Fifty percent of the building is a community gathering space, which we have used to host a wide variety of social events and arts performances. A modern fireplace serves as the literal and figurative heart of the building. Open workstations, quiet alcoves and standing-height meeting spaces fill the design studio upstairs. Throughout the entire office there are boards lined with sketches, inspiration images and plans for buildings that we are bringing to life. 

Helix events

helix after

With solar panels on our roof and Electric Vehicle charging stations out back, our building has also become a test bed for sustainable technology. From automobiles to architecture, we’re proud to know that those who went before us were pioneering in their field and we look forward to carrying the torch from here!

Sources:

http://www.exide.com/Media/files/The%20History%
20of%20Exide%20Technologies.pdf
http://dnr.mo.gov/shpo/nps-nr/99001158.pdf
http://www.exide.com/en/about/locations.aspx


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