Kauffman Center for Performing Arts — Kansas City

May 7 • Articles, Entertainment, International • 1267 Views • 5 Comments on Kauffman Center for Performing Arts — Kansas City

Architect: Safdie Architects /// Completion: 2011

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

© Tommy Brison


By Renee Dietz…

Initially founded as the “Town of Kansas” in 1838, Kansas City, Missouri has gained a reputation for being the heart of the Midwest. Currently, the metropolitan population is more than 450,000 but taking into account the entire metropolitan area and being a sister city to Kansas City, Kansas, separated only by the Missouri River, it seems much larger.


Over the years, Kansas City has gained a reputation for many things but in particular, incredible jazz, beautiful Paris-like fountains, mouth-watering barbecue, professional sports, unique architecture, and the Fine and Performing Arts, with the latter showing the true heart and soul of city. Locals and tourists alike enjoy everything that Kansas City has to offer but the combination of Fine and Performing Arts with architecture is one of the most captivating. If you’d like to put on your own perfoming arts event, take a look at how kansas city event rentals could help you.


Top Fine and Performing Arts Attractions

Today, there are multiple theaters and centers dedicated to the Fine and Performing arts to include the following examples:

– Kansas City Repertory Theater

– Midland Theater

– Starlight Theater

– Kansas City Symphony

– Lyric Opera of Kansas City

– Civic Opera Theater of Kansas City

– Nelson-Atkins Museum

– Folly Theater

– Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts


Although each is special, it is the Kauffman Center for Performing Arts that people talk about most. Not only is this a newly built center but the architectural features both inside and outside are simply stunning. Safdie Architects who designed Kauffman Center considered every detail and the results are spectacular. By using the company’s philosophy listed below, visitors are greeted by an ultra-modern facility with a highly functional interior.


– Shaping the Public Realm – Allows set goals to have meaning and the community to be enriched

– Architecture with a Purpose – Impacts the community by bringing a vision of positivity to fruition

– Responding to the Essence of Place – Creates diversity by blending high-tech facilities with the city’s history and culture

– Architecture that is Buildable – Consists of specific design and construction elements that work for a particular geographic location

– Humanizing the Mega-Scale – Focuses on efficient architectural building guidelines specific to ecology, energy conservation, and renewable materials


Bringing a Dream to Life

Interestingly, the idea of building a performing arts center in Kansas City was first discussed by Muriel McBrien Kauffman back in 1994. Unfortunately, Kauffman passed away just one year later but the dream lived on through his daughter and chairman of the Kauffman Foundation, Julia Irene Kauffman. However, it would be another three years before the feasibility study was completed, thus setting the foundation of the product.


Then in 1999, 18.5 acres located in the city’s central business district was purchased. While there were four incredibly talented architectural firms being considered, Moshe Safdie, a renowned and award-winning modernist was chosen. The original concept that would eventually become the Kansas City Center for the Performing Arts was sketched on a napkin by Julia and then shared with Safdie.


After blending her vision with his skill, an official plan was presented in 2002. With everything approved, ground was finally broken in 2006 and development of the center started with J.E. Dunn Construction Group lending its expertise. Due to high standards and technical requirements, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City became one of the most complex structures in the world to design but also build.


As part of the design, 25,000 cubic yards of concrete was laid, 27 steel cables on just one side of the facility deeply anchored in embeds weighing approximately one and one-half tons, and 40,000 square feet of glass installed. To ensure the necessary stability, special tensioning during construction was used. Although building the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts was hard work, five years after construction started, the doors opened to the public in September of 2011.


In celebration of bringing a dream to life, an event called “An Evening of Theatrical Delights” was offered. As part of the celebration, some of the world’s greatest performers lent their talent to include Placido Domingo, Patti LuPone, Itzhak Perlman, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and the Kansas City Symphony and Choir. However, the list of talent lives on today with performances by Lily Tomlin, Diana Krall, Willie Nelson, Aretha Franklin, Mavis Staples, Yo-Yo Ma, and more.


In addition to performances at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, the Open Doors Program was developed in which children from schools located throughout the community have the opportunity to visit and experience the center. Then in June of 2012, the Music Revolution Program was launched, which provides the chance for 15 to 23-year olds to complete four weeks of intense instruction and mentoring.


Design Aspects of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

Using innovative ideas and high-tech materials, Safdie Architects was able to build a structure in Kansas City that has become a recognized and respected part of the city’s skyline. What makes this facility unique is the level of sophistication coupled with simplicity. The exterior design boasts contemporary aesthetics while the interior of the center is designed with high-tech features and amazing acoustics. As a result, the overall experience of watching talent on stage is rich.


Some of the key elements of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts include the following:

– Performance halls, backstage areas, and the grand lobby covering 285,000 square feet

– Bead-blasted stainless steel, pre-cast concrete, and glass exterior surfaces

– Office space, warm-up rooms, dressing areas, and rehearsal spaces

– Box office, coat check, gift shop, and refreshment bars

– 196 visitor restroom stalls

-Accessibility in coordination with the Kansas City, Missouri and Americans with Disabilities Act consisting of two drop-off areas, handicap parking, elevators, wheelchair seating, and accessible backstage areas, among others.

Kauffman Center

© Randy Mckown


The first thing people see upon arriving at the center is two symmetrical half-shells that consist of vertical and concentric arches. Each shell features an independent performance venue connected by a common backstage area that stretches the entire length of the center. After entering the center, visitors are greeted by a massive glass tent-like lobby that boasts breathtaking city views. This lobby, called Brandmeyer Hall, links the Muriel Kauffman Theater and Helzberg Hall.


While there are things that set the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts apart from other facilities, the performance halls are without doubt the highlight. The Muriel Kauffman Theater and Helzberg Hall combined accommodate over 250 performers although each offers a unique experience.


– The Muriel Kauffman Theater was inspired by opera houses in Europe, boasting box seating and several balconies to the side, as well as center stage seating that accommodates 1,800 visitors. This theater also has a 5,000 square foot stage, 74-foot high fly tower, and a 90-musician orchestra pit.

– The Helzberg Hall is slightly smaller, able to house 1,600 visitors. Because the design of the stage extends out into almost one-third of the hall, everyone is provided with a perfect view of performers. Two of the hall’s most amazing features include motorized risers for the stage and a 79-stop, 102-rank pipe organ.


Even the exterior of the center makes a statement. For example, there is a $47 million Arts District Garage that provides covered parking and quick but also safe entrances. This garage also boasts a car-charging station and reserved parking for people who drive electric cars. In addition, the garage roof serves double duty by protecting vehicles and being a beautiful landscaping masterpiece created by Jeffrey L. Bruce & Company.


To create the desired landscaping aesthetics, 300,000 pieces of high-density foam along with 100,000 square feet of sod and 3,000 tons of sand mixture were required. The goal was to re-establish sustainability since the eco system was disrupted, offer something visually pleasing for visitors to the center, and create a designated area for outside events.


To stay in compliance with the Kansas City “One Percent for Art” ordinance in support of local artists, Terpsichore for Kansas City installed mixed media art in the garage. This installation consists of a four-story light organ designed with seven acrylic tubes encased with LED lights that move in sync with original musical composition played through overhead speakers.


As shown, the vision of Muriel Kauffman and his daughter, Julia Irene, coupled with the skill and expertise of Safdie Architects, the construction ability of J.E. Dunn Construction Group, and the grounds and landscaping designs by Jeffrey L. Bruce & Company, among many other professionals, is what made it possible for one of the most amazing performing arts centers in the world to be built.

Kauffman Center

© Randy Mckown



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