Kansas City, Missouri
Since the curtain rose on the art form in the 17th century, classical ballet has required its practitioners to leap, lift, and chass' onstage while making it all appear as effortless as a two-step. A 1914-era former coal power plant for the nearby Union Station train depot, then, isn't as unlikely a home for Missouri's Kansas City Ballet (KCB) as it may seem at first. It embodies the kind of industriousness and strength required to be a dancer. 'There is something counterintuitive about putting a ballet school beside a rail yard,' admits Steve McDowell, principal and design director at the Kansas City'based architecture firm BNIM. But the dissonance is a good thing, McDowell says: the building and its site gave the architects an opportunity to respond to the 'muscularity and form of the human body' in motion while they created a new home for the city's ballet company and its school.
The KCB's former home was scheduled for demolition to make way for Moshe Safdie's Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts (for which BNIM was the architect of record), completed in 2011. Though the professional company would be staging productions in this new arts center, it set out to find another location for its school, rehearsal spaces, and administrative offices. The disused plant'known as the Power House'was part of a greater city plan to redevelop the area with Union Station at the heart of the project. It was an unusually advantageous option for the company because of its double-height ceilings and generous square footage. 'The city considered the Power House for offices, a nightclub, a whole host of uses,' says McDowell. But it lay vacant for 30 years until the ballet company set its sights on it.
To salvage the long-neglected industrial building and transform it into the Todd Bolender Center for Dance & Creativity, the crew gutted the entire 65,000-square-foot, two-story structure. The design team transformed the column-free north end of the building, once a cavernous engine room, into seven instruction and rehearsal studios. Administrative offices, dressing rooms, and restrooms occupy the building's south side. Certain industrial remnants'coal funnels, skylights, and the soaring Power House chimney, for example'were preserved in a careful choreography of new and old. Large new energy-efficient windows mimic the existing fenestration with exacting detail and provide abundant daylight penetration and views to the outside. Yet other interventions don't pretend to be old, says McDowell, referring to the 21st-century structural components used to build the mezzanine level and a second floor of dance studios.
Since the Todd Bolender Center opened in August 2011, the KCB reported a 70 percent increase in enrollment at its school from the 2010'11 year and a 92 percent increase in overall season attendance. 'The Union Station complex is nearly finished now,' with the center as a finishing touch, McDowell says. 'People have been really enthusiastic about it.'
106 W. 14th Street
Kansas City, MO 64105
Completion Date: August 2011
Gross square footage: 65,000 square feet
Total construction cost: $39 million
Client: Kansas City Ballet
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Interior designer: BNIM
Design-build MEP Contractors
General contractor: JE Dunn Construction
CAD system, project management, or other software used: Autodesk Revit and AutoCAD
Basement level approx. 18” below static water table at site. Extensive repairs and waterproofing to existing foundation walls. Existing basement slab entirely replaced.
Structural steel framing required extensive corrosion damage repairs and strengthening from basement level to roof level.
Other: Chimney base extension feature with supplemental louvers
Air Handling Units: Trane
Add any additional building components or special equipment that made a significant contribution to this project: