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Elevating Arts Education for Kansas City Kids

For those of us that grew up with the arts integrated into our upbringing, it’s hard to imagine a childhood without them. But as public funding for arts programs and education continues to diminish, missing out on this invaluable experience is becoming a reality for many children. Helix has a long history of supporting the arts, holding tightly to our belief that arts education produces a valuable social and economic impact within the local community.

KCYA-sm-4355Over the past year, Helix has had the opportunity to work with two such organizations whose work is dedicated to ensuring the arts are accessible to all. They are the Kansas City Young Audiences (KCYA), the largest provider of arts programs in the Kansas City area and Academy for Integrated Arts (AFIA), an arts-centered K-6 charter school. Both chose sites where existing facilities were adapted, allowing them to reach even more kids.

Kansas City Young Audiences

KCYA began by purchasing their first permanent home in Midtown. The building, originally constructed in 1997, was the site of a large box retailer and is located along the Main Street redevelopment. The design team worked with them to develop a concept featuring a variety of flexible spaces to grow with the organization. KCYA hosts various visual and performing arts activities, as well as classes for children. Constructed by McCownGordon Construction, key spaces include two dance studios, a stage and event space, classrooms for music and the fine arts, an art gallery, administration offices with a boardroom and a marketable tenant space.

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AFIA found a new home in an unexpected location – the former King Louie East bowling alley. Vacant for 10 years, the building had substantially deteriorated, and AFIA was sure they would have to demolish it. However, our team was able to develop a plan to renovate the existing building, greatly reducing costs. We worked closely with teachers, administrators and the school’s board of directors to create a space that integrates the arts and technology into curriculum and everyday activities. Their new building is part of the Troost redevelopment, located at 79th & Troost Avenue.

AFIA Classroom

The project better equips AFIA to meet the needs of their students. The new space has allowed enrollment to grow from 120 to 170, and a second phase addition is already underway with the goal of expanding to 350 students. Helix and JE Dunn met the school’s a fast-track schedule, so they could be moved in at the beginning of the 2016 school year.

AFIA Classroom

According to Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning, researchers found “sustained learning” in music and theater correlates to greater success in math and reading. Additionally, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds had the greatest benefit. In fact, KCYA shared those who participated in the arts were four times more likely to participate in a math and science fair. Despite the strong connection, a 2011 survey by Common Core and FarkasDuffett Research Group reported 66 percent of teachers surveyed said curriculum is moving away from art, music, foreign language and social studies.

Organizations like AFIA and KCYA are working to shift this trend by bringing arts education to Kansas City. Sparking creativity and innovation, non-profits like these are able to thrive through the support of volunteer boards and donors. Learn how you can support KCYA here or get involved with AFIA by donating supplies or volunteering.  

Photos of KCYA by Bob Greenspan. Photos of AFIA provided by JE Dunn.


13 April, 2017 | Academic, Awards, Historic Renovation

Norrington Center at Park University wins Historic Kansas City Preservation Award

Since its founding in 1974, Historic Kansas City (HKC) has been the only greater Kansas City nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of the area’s heritage, neighborhoods and historic built environment. Two weeks ago at their annual Preservation Awards ceremony, HKC celebrated the people – developers, building owners, architects and preservationists – that have demonstrated exceptional leadership in historic preservation across our city.

We are honored that our work on the renovation of Park University’s Norrington Center was among those honored for its preservation and reinvestment in the last remaining Carnegie Library on a college campus in the State of Missouri. The Norrington Center received an Excellence Award in the Contemporary Design in a Historic Context category, which is given to a project that displays innovative contemporary design in a historic context.

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The Carnegie Corporation of New York built 35 public and academic libraries in the state of Missouri between 1899 and 1917. Only one of the academic libraries is still remaining today and that is Norrington Hall on Park University’s campus. Built in 1908, Norrington Hall originally served as the campus library until those services were relocated in the 1980’s. At that time the interior was converted into office and classroom spaces. In 2015, Park University initiated a renovation to return the building to its original roots as a 21st century state-of-the-art library and academic commons.

Norrington Before & After

The majority of the historic character on the interior of the building had been removed during previous renovations but the Helix design team preserved those most defining of the building, including the grand open entry stairwell that connects the first and second floor, the stained glass window in the stairwell landing, ornamental guardrails, wood handrails, stone wall cladding and terrazzo floor finishes in the entry hall. The interior environment was transformed into modern academic and study spaces that will serve the university and make the building viable for years to come.

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The three-story steel and glass floor library stack spaces were inaccessible and unusable for today’s modern academic library. It was removed and the second floor was expanded to create a gallery space with access to restrooms while the first floor was converted into a coffee shop and study space. The design solution increased the functionality of the space while preserving the original windows that spanned the first two floors.

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In order to provide ADA accessibility without altering the historic front entry facade of the building, a new ADA accessible entry vestibule was designed on the rear of the building along with an open patio to create a welcoming secondary entry point along a primarily pedestrian circulation route between the historic Norrington Center and the campus’s historic and iconic administration building, Mackay Hall.

Park University’s investment ensures people will continue to experience the beauty and craftsmanship of this historic structure for years to come.

For those of you that love old buildings as much as we do, Historic Kansas City hosts events throughout the year. You can check them out, along with a full list of award winners on their website.


5 January, 2017 | Academic, Design, Recognition

UMKC + Helix Announce 2016 Bud Prize Scholarship Winners

header_image_bud_prizeThe UMKC Department of Architecture, Urban Planning & Design teams up with Helix each fall semester 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, eleven second-year students were challenged to create a book store, cafe, gallery, owner’s residence and a guest apartment in an existing property at the corner of 39th and Mercier.

2016-jury-768x504Helix principal Trevor Hoiland, served on the jury this year, alongside:

  • Bill Bruning, The Bruning Company
  • Patricia O’Dell, Writer & UMKC Communication Coordinator
  • Jay Siebenmorgen, Kansas State University Dept. of Architecture  
  • Joy Swallow, UMKC Dept. of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design

The jury selected Calistro Reyes for the first place award; honorable mentions were awarded to Samantha Davis and Tayvia Navy.

bud-prize-projects_4“Calistro created a strong diagram that was developed into a very believable concept. There was consistent development throughout the project and he had complete drawings and a well-crafted model. His presentation was very articulate and complete,” Hoiland said about the first place project.

Congratulations to all the UMKC students on their hard work and for carrying on Bud’s legacy through your efforts in design. To read more about the winning projects, check out UMKC’s blog post about this year’s Bud Prize.


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.


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


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.


KCU Administration Building Renovation

KCU Admin Building | Helix Architecture + Design | JE Dunn | Henderson Engineers

KCU Admin Building | Helix Architecture + Design | JE Dunn | Henderson Engineers

We are excited to announce the completion of another successful project with Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences (KCU). Originally home to the first Children’s Mercy Hospital, the 100-year-old building became part of KCU in the 1970s. Today, the newly renovated building functions as both the Administration Building and campus Welcome Center.

KCU Admin Building | Helix Architecture + Design | JE Dunn | Henderson Engineers

KCU Admin Building | Helix Architecture + Design | JE Dunn | Henderson Engineers

KCU Admin Building | Helix Architecture + Design | JE Dunn | Henderson Engineers

KCU Admin Building | Helix Architecture + Design | JE Dunn | Henderson Engineers

Prior to beginning design, Helix led a team of key stakeholders through a series of visioning sessions, in which we were able to define underlying directives for the project, such as: perceived University identity, campus culture, fundamental business drivers, modern day work styles and the desired look and feel for the space.

The building serves over 1,000 KCU students and approximately 70 members of KCU faculty and staff. By opening up the floorplan we were able to make the building easier to navigate, while introducing hospitality areas, progressive workplace solutions, and expanded A/V capabilities to address the evolving needs of students and staff, alike.

By transitioning administrative space to an open office environment the space enhances inter-department communication and improves access for students. This strategic shift in culture also increased shared social spaces directly adjacent to major circulation paths to give an open, welcoming appeal.

KCU_Admin_Building_ImagesThe completion of the Administration Building serves as the kickoff event for KCU’s 2016 Centennial celebration. This preservation and modernization of the building reflects KCU’s past, and celebrates a future of continued collaboration, research and service to the communities it serves.

In line with KCU’s commitment to sustainability, Helix developed a building renovation concept that re-used the existing structure while re-configuring and modernizing the space to better serve the university’s needs. Slated to achieve LEED Silver Certification, the project incorporated high efficiency building systems, improved the indoor environment for building users and repurposed existing materials to the fullest extent possible.

Congratulations to our partners at KCU on this milestone for the university and our project team on a beautiful space that blends academic services and workplace design seamlessly into a historic building!

Images by Michael Robinson Photography


Helix + KCU at SCUP

Helix Architecture + Design and Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences (KCU) will be presenting the transformational renovation of Weaver Auditorium into the university’s new Academic Center at the SCUP 2016 North Central Symposium on April 27th.

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Program: RePurpose / ReEngergize – Creating a New Academic Center at KCU

Every higher education institution is dealing with the challenges of having existing buildings that are not designed to accommodate the way that millennials (and Gen Z following them) want to learn and connect with their peers. Because of this, many of these buildings are substantially underutilized.

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The Academic Center at KCU took an existing building with a large 1,500-seat auditorium and transformed it 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.

The lobby and back-of-house auditorium spaces were converted into flexible student break-out and study rooms. This resourceful solution saved nearly a third of what it might otherwise cost to build a new facility and achieved LEED Silver Certification due in part to repurposing of 90% of the materials from the site’s previous building, Weaver Auditorium.

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The project was one of multiple identified in the University’s master plan, which was initiated in 2012. The design principles expressed in this master plan are based on a qualitative approach that synthesizes interviews, the aspirations and the goals of KCU with a critical assessment of their current space planning needs.

SPEAKERS:

Helix principal Reeves Wiedeman and project architect Miranda Groth will be co-presenting alongside KCU CFO/CEO Joe Massman and Director of Capital Projects, Tim Saxe on the success.

Reeves Wideman + Miranda Groth

Reeves W. Wiedeman, FAIA
Founding Principal
Helix Architecture + Design

As a founding principal of Helix, Reeves Wiedeman has been a driving force behind the firm’s success across a diverse, award-winning portfolio of work that spans academic, civic, cultural, workplace, hospitality and residential markets. As a market leader for Helix’s higher education clients, Reeves has led all of the firm’s projects for KCU as well as other academic institutions throughout the region. Reeves is an alumnus of the University of Kansas with a Bachelor of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design. His commitment to design excellence and advancement of the profession is evident in his continued involvement with the American Institute of Architects and his selection for Fellowship Status.

Miranda Groth, AIA, LEED AP
Project Manager
Helix Architecture + Design

During her career at Helix, Miranda has managed nearly 150,000 square feet of projects for Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, including the complex adaptive reuse of Weaver Auditorium into the new KCU Academic Center. The project recently received an AIA Central State Design Excellence Award for its ingenuity in repurposing an underutilized structure into an educational hub on the KCU campus. Her methodical project management approach has consistently resulted in her projects being completed under budget and within schedule. Miranda has a Master of Architecture from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Bachelor of Science in Architectural Studies from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Joe Massman and Tim Saxe

Joe Massman, MBA
Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer
Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences

Joe Massman is chief financial officer (CFO) and chief operating officer at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, where he is responsible for most of its non-academic functions including finance, human resources, compliance, information technology, facilities and campus operations. Prior to joining the field of higher education, Joe was the founder and CEO of the ETF Store, a retail investment advisory firm. Previously, he served as CFO at Freightquote.com and held other senior financial positions with Express.com in Los Angeles, Viacom, Inc., in New York, and KPMG LLP in Kansas City. Joe earned a bachelor of business administration from the University of Notre Dame and a master of business administration from New York University.

Tim Saxe, PE
Director of Capital Projects
Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences

Tim provides leadership for the planning, design, construction, and financial performance of capital improvement projects for the University.  Prior to his role at KCU, Tim enjoyed a diverse 15-year career in both design, as an architect and structural engineer at HNTB, and then in construction management, as Project Manager and Knowledge Manager at JE Dunn Construction.  A majority of Tim’s experience is on large scale projects on University campuses.  Tim graduated from the Missouri University of Science & Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and completed graduate studies in Architectural Engineering at the Pennsylvania State University.

JOIN US!

We’d love to see you at the SCUP 2016 North Central Symposium in Omaha, NE. The conference takes place on April 27th, so register soon! 


University of Kansas Medical Center celebrates ceremonial groundbreaking of Health Education Building

View From SouthWest

The University of Kansas Medical Center ceremonially broke ground Thursday on a $75 million Health Education Building designed by Helix Architecture + Design in association with CO Architects. Leaders from the University of Kansas and KU Medical Center were joined by Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, philanthropic donors and other dignitaries for the ceremony.

Interior View

The 171,000-square-foot Health Education Building will serve as the primary teaching facility for the KU schools of Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions and will include significant simulation space and flexible, state-of-the-art learning space to support interprofessional education and other new models of teaching.

“This facility will change the way we educate and train physicians, nurses and other health care workers for Kansas,” said Douglas A. Girod, M.D., executive vice chancellor of KU Medical Center. “It will allow us to accelerate our university’s move toward a modern health education curriculum that emphasizes small group, interdisciplinary problem-solving and advanced patient simulation technology.”

View From NorthWest

You can learn more about the project and follow construction progress on the project website: http://www.kumc.edu/kumc-leadership/health-education-building.html