Browsing Workplace

8 December, 2015 | Design, Renovation, Workplace

What does it take to successfully renovate one of the largest office buildings in Kansas City?

We recently celebrated a monumental milestone — the rededication of the 1.2 million-square-foot Richard Bolling Federal Building in downtown Kansas City. Its complete modernization took four phases spanning 15 years, all while the building remained occupied.

Our work on the $280 million project, which was rededicated Nov. 6, drew praise from Jason Klumb, U.S. General Services Administration Regional Administrator for the Heartland Region. He wrote this in a letter to our design team:

“Helix Architecture + Design has given the American taxpayers and GSA a public space that we are very, very proud to serve in. Throughout the project, your leadership and coordination was paramount to the success of the renovation. … Your work ensured we received the most professional and appropriate design services, you were diligent in meeting deadlines, and you maintained sensitivity to the budget that respected the investment of taxpayers. … Your team made the process very smooth and was always there when we needed you. … It was a job well done, on budget, and ahead of schedule.”

The project, designed under the GSA’s Design Excellence Program, aimed to improve the workplace environment for the building’s 2,800 occupants while improving energy efficiency, upgrading security and abating environmental issues.

Constructed in 1962, the 18-story Bolling Building is an exceptional example of Mid-Century Modern architecture. As architects, there is an inherent thrill in working on a structure of this magnitude, but first and foremost this project was about people — thousands of people whose lives are impacted by this building every day, and whose work experience is enhanced by this renovation.

We created progressive, high-performance workplaces tailored to modern employees and to the culture of each organization that uses the building. Alternative office spaces — such as lounge areas, small team rooms, and conference rooms — accommodate a variety of work styles. We also made the space capable of adapting to continued growth.  And when designing shared spaces within the building — the café, the fitness center, conference rooms, the health clinic — we sought to provide opportunities for interaction across departments and agencies.

GSA’s leadership on this project also reflects its commitment to the environment. Since the renovation began, the building’s energy use has decreased by 40 percent. In addition, two green roofs and two underground cisterns can capture up to 110,000 gallons of rainwater to irrigate the two-city-block site. Phase 3 achieved LEED certification, and Phase 4 is slated to achieve LEED Silver certification.  

We had an incredible team of partners — GastingerWalker&, JE Dunn Construction and our engineering consultants — that were instrumental to successfully delivering such a complex project on budget and ahead of schedule.  We are proud to be part of such a monumental project and an exceptional team.

Photos credited to Michael Robinson Photography

2 December, 2014 | Workplace

CAPS Workplace Workshop

Over the last few years there’s been a lot of discussion around Millennials in the workplace. While this is still a relevant discussion, we are ready to study what’s next. What are the values, concerns, and aspirations of the next generation? This fall, a group of our designers teamed with students from the local Blue Valley CAPS program to learn more about this generation and their vision of what the workplace will be like in 5-8 years as they graduate college.

To properly set the stage, it’s important to know CAPS is not an ordinary high school. The Center of Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) hosts junior and senior students from other area high schools to participate in problem-based real world experiential learning focused in the areas of Bioscience, Business, Engineering, and Human Services with the goal of fostering individual and societal success ( The students we met with are mentored by real working professionals and are able to contribute to actual projects and solutions in the marketplace. Together, they comprise an extraordinary pool of youth eager to innovate and quite capable of imaging a viable workplace of the future.

In our first meeting we took a step back from considering the physical workplace and dreamt about the type of work this generation might be doing. Think back only ten years ago to 2004. Facebook was just getting started at universities, the iphone wouldn’t arrive until 2007, and Twitter was still in its early years. Today there are hundreds of thousands of jobs in social media: app development, programming and marketing, and strategists that didn’t exist in 2004. Now think ahead 10 years.  Not so easy? Around our Helix red table we asked the CAPS students to create a job that doesn’t exist today and a profile for the person doing the job.  A few of the examples?

  • A neighborhood ‘tech guy’ always available to help, and who only lives a few doors away
  • A garbage astronaut who cleans up debris in outerspace
  • A scientist who  develops 3D printed organs


Good, right?

At our next meeting the Helix team went to the CAPS school to talk with another group of students about what kind of spaces they see themselves working in someday. We asked: What does this place look like? What kind of furniture is there? What tools do you need? What’s the most important part of this space?

Students broke into teams to design the perfect spaces to focus, learn, and collaborate, and then presented their ideas to the group. Some of our favorites:

  • A small workstation within collaborative areas to retreat to focus on an idea without losing inspiration or disrupting the group.
  • Focus areas should feel more like home with calm music and a variety of lighting. They even suggested scented candles! Essentially, “the opposite of a classroom.”
  • The most important ingredients in social areas? Food, plants and sunlight to fuel wellness and creativity

The CAPS students provided valuable insight into this next generation. We loved the way they compared workplaces of the past (rows of cubicles with an office for the boss) to classrooms of the past (rows of desks with a teacher up front lecturing). The conversation about how their educational experience has changed based on the space they’re in is a testament to the value of sustainable architecture (CAPS is housed in a LEED Silver building) and the experiential learning model of the CAPS school. Clearly, the expectations and needs of this generation and how they influence the workplace will continue to be the subject of research and studies for years to come, but initiating the conversation with forward-thinking kids in our very own city seemed like a great place to start.

A huge thank you to the Blue Valley CAPS program, particularly teacher and facilitator Scott Kershel and the students who met with us for sharing their ideas, time, and zeal.

Award Season

Award Season is upon us, and Helix-designed projects have been taking the stage- and in some instances- dominating it!  This month we are celebrating the success of 18th &Vine’s Highland Place re-development, as it has proven deserving of the state’s Preserve Missouri Award and Historic KC’s Preservation Award under “Best Preservation Practices.”  Last Friday’s Capstone Award Ceremony recognized three Helix projects: The Richard Bolling Federal Building (with 1.2 million gross sf), Webster Garage in Kansas City’s Crossroads, and Sporting Innovation’s renovation of the historic Lowe and Campbell Building (which also received a Historic KC Award, under “Contemporary Design”).

We want to thank everyone who contributed to the success of these projects!

“We Care” 2013

In the midst of sickness and sluggishness that cold weather brings, a contagious case of holiday cheer recently spread through the Helix office. A large group of Helix employees eagerly participated in the annual “We Care” event this year and subsequently transformed our resource library into something resembling an elf’s workshop. “We Care,” hosted and sponsored nationally by Herman Miller, took place last week at the Thornberry Boys and Girls Club for the event’s Kansas City region. The design community came together for a joy-filled evening of creating and sharing holiday crafts with local children. Over 13 architecture and design firms participated, along with a variety of dealer partners, alliance partners and volunteer groups. By the end of the night, our industrious group of Helix elves had supplied over 125 custom-decaled scarves to appreciative children.


On Wednesday, September 19th Helix was pleased to host Vitra – a company known for its innovative and unique approach to commercial workspace design. A special thank you to our speakers Tina Burger and Margit Geist!

24 July, 2012 | Design, Workplace

Project Peek: Global Prairie

For Global Prairie, an integrated communications firm with offices in eight U.S. states, Helix created a progressive workplace based on the Net ’n Nest concept. The idea was to design an office where lawyers, executives, strategists, and creative professionals could meet and collaborate (net) and also a place where they could do focused individual work or handle critical and confidential information (nest).

A variety of work spaces including benched seating, alcove sofas, conference spaces, and telephone rooms were designed to promote interaction and communication between young talent and industry veterans, accommodate employees seeking more quiet, private space, and support small-group collaboration.

2 of 212