Program: A two-story, 60,000-square-foot home for the Kansas City Ballet. The project, an adaptive reuse of a coal-burning power plant from 1914, includes a performance theater, dance studios, locker rooms, administrative offices, a prefunction space, and a basement wardrobe workspace. A ballet school operates in some of the studios, offering classes to children and adults.
Design concept and solution: When BNIM started work, the steel and masonry structure had been abandoned since the 1970s and was battered by structural deterioration and standing water. Since the building no longer needed to support heavy coal-processing equipment, the architects were able to brace foundation walls and columns without having to restore the structure to its former capacity. In order to fit the dance center's program into the framework of the old plant, the architects needed to find creative ways of organizing the program and make the most of the plant's industrial remnants. The former engine room, a voluminous, triple-height space on the north side of the building, provided a column-free area just large enough to accommodate the theater. To house practice space, BNIM added a second floor with a row of four studios above the old engine room. The new floor plate floats within the larger volume and stops short of the exterior wall, allowing light from the large wood-frame windows to filter in through the glazing on the elevated studios. To bring more daylight into the studios, the architects re-created the plant's old Texas skylight, using metal framing to match the profile of the original fitting. Also on the second floor, between the north and south halves of the structure, BNIM inserted a catwalk connecting the studios with the locker rooms to the south. The catwalk passes through the plant's old chimney base, which the architects transformed into a meditative, cupola-like space by replacing the smokestack above with a skylight. To keep the interiors from looking too cluttered, they painted the exposed steel structure a neutral light gray and highlighted a few leftover fittings in bright orange. Steel coal chutes in the south hallway, repurposed as supports for hanging lights, punctuate the ceiling with loud pops of color, while a large orange crane perches high in the theater.