A New Year in the East Bottoms!

The 2019-2020 studio year has officially begun! This year we are working on a vision study for the East Bottoms area of Kansas City. Our studio group this year is made up of 12 students, all of us encountering the East Bottoms for the first time, even though many of us have lived here most of our lives. We are excited to explore the site and learn about the history of the East Bottoms area. For most of us, this is our first time working in groups, so we are excited to see how collaboration can help us explore the uses of urban planning in this setting.


We kicked off the project with a site visit to explore the conditions and opportunities in the area. We started at the southern border of the study area— Cliff Drive and Kessler Park. From here, we were able to see the dramatic landscape condition of the bluffs that seperates the East Bottoms from the residential area of Scarritt Renaissance. We then stopped at the newly opened J. Reiger & Co to see what amenities the East Bottoms has to offer. After touring the brewery and enjoying the spiral slide, we started to investigate how industrial/historic buildings could be renovated to allow people to interact with them. Locations like J.Reiger that act as destination spaces that not only manufacture goods but become a place where people can learn about the history of the area and how goods are created are an exciting precedent for the East Bottoms.

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The group then began exploring different precedents that could improve the connection between Kansas City and the East Bottoms— including ideas like bringing the streetcar to the East Bottoms as an easy way to access that part of the city. We also examined projects that dealt with river fluctuations and how to bring more activities and programs to the Riverfront Park. We want to bring people closer to nature and figure out how to reconnect to the river despite the current levee system that cuts off resident’s access to the river.

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After a day exploring the site and some precedent research, we split into three groups to analyze the history and physical and regulatory mapping of the area. Through our mapping studies we were able to see how the Missouri River has affected the East Bottoms over time and identify some of the historic buildings in the Area. We also mapped the foliage and topography of the site to examine the challenges that it may present in addition to identifying inventories of live agriculture, land use, zoning, and transportation. Next, we will explore the site on an expanded scale and see how it connects to the rest of the city. We will also locate some of the environmental factors of the site such as brownfields and research how other projects in the area have approached these challenges.

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We’re excited to move forward and continue exploring the possibilities for the project. You can follow along via our social media (@kcdesigncenter) and public meetings later in the semester!



We’re hiring an Executive Director for the Kansas City Design Center (KCDC)

The Kansas City Design Center is an interdisciplinary, teaching, research, and outreach center focused on the Kansas City Metropolitan Region. KCDC strives to advance the application of design by addressing the most important issues affecting our urban environments.

The KCDC is entering the next phase of its strategic growth and development. In order to facilitate this forward momentum, KCDC has redefined the role of the Executive Director and is seeking qualified candidates to fill this critical leadership position. The current Executive Director, Vladimir Krstic, will transition to Director of Academic Programs to focus on academic program leadership of KCDC.

The Executive Director is a contract position and a key management leader of KCDC, a non-profit organization, and is responsible for overseeing the administration, programs, and strategic plans of the organization. Other key duties include fundraising, marketing and community outreach. Please see the full job description here.

To refer any candidate or to ask any questions about the position, please contact the search firm: Jane Walton Consulting, LLC, Jane Walton President, jane@janewaltonconsulting.com, 816.898.6929

Another year complete!

Prospect Avenue Nodal Study is wrapping up this week! Monday was the final studio review for the project and Thursday is our Open House for the final project. Click here for more information on the Open House, we’d love to see you there!


In reflecting on the project, as a class we have learned new skills and a new perspective that will help guide us in the future.

We learned to push one another towards stronger designs.
We understand that research is never finished
We refined our ability to express our ideas both verbally and graphically
We know to always edit, and then re-edit, and then edit one more time
We recognize how to communicate with our peers as teammates
We have the ability to take charge and lead when necessary
We realize the importance of understanding the views of people who live in the places our project touch
We made progress in connecting with community members and people shaping the future of Kansas City
Lastly, we learned how to listen

This project was most importantly an academic study of the Prospect Avenue Corridor, but it was also much larger than that. Throughout the process it became an invitation to be excited about the future of the corridor and an opportunity to look at Prospect Avenue as a place with boundless potential.

And with that, congratulations to all of the students on finishing the third phase of the project and congratulations to all of our seniors who will be graduating on Saturday! We wish you all the best.

The final leg of the studio project comes this summer— two KCDC students will compile the comprehensive project publication about the Prospect Ave research, process, and outcomes from the 2018-2019 year. Look out for the hard copies and digital copies in the Fall!

Keep Pushing the Design

From the Dream The Combine artist lecture to our second community engagement meeting, KCDC students have had a busy start to spring.

We welcomed Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers of Dream The Combine to the KCDC on April 2nd for a guest lecture. They termed themselves ‘makers’ that are ‘partners in work and life, [they] create site specific installations exploring metaphor, imaginary environments, and perceptual uncertainties that cast doubt on our own understanding of the world’. Jennifer and Tom presented a number of projects and discussed the overlap in art, architecture, and cultural theory that their work exemplifies. They attempt to disrupt assumed dichotomies and manipulate the boundary between real and illusory space through this process. You can visit their website to check out more of their work.

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With the design development phase of the Prospect Avenue Nodal Study nearing completion, students are striving to bring a level of detail to the project that can make the study both feasible and friendly on a more human scale. The KCDC students were joined by several design professionals for a review of their work last Monday. It was helpful to receive feedback from designers and professionals that had an outside perspective, and from this experience each group heard suggestions on what they were doing well and what needed to be pushed further or edited. The positive comments from the reviewers were encouraging as the students continue working on their designs.

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Riding on the success of Monday’s review, the KCDC students prepared for the second community engagement meeting at the Gregg/Klice Community Center on Thursday. There was a great turnout of community members that were excited to learn about the student’s efforts. Many were concerned about the future of their neighborhoods, and the students were able to engage them in our design process. They shared their vision for the revitalization of the corridor and were passionate about seeing their community grow and prosper. This transparent communication was a great step in continuing to foster a partnership between the city and the local community as The KCDC strives to shape a positive future for Prospect Avenue.

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Learning to Live with Water- A Visit with Internationally Renowned Architect Matthijs Bouw

“We must use the things we learn to change the ways we build our cities” were the final words of Dutch architect Matthijs Bouw at his lecture last Thursday. These were inspiring words for the audience and us, the students of the Kansas City Design Center, who hope to make a difference as we near graduation and enter the field of professional architects, landscape architects, and planners. We are lifelong learners in a world that is experiencing accelerated change, and we are ready for the endeavor of designing a society that works with the people and the environment.

The Big U

The lecture Building Resilient Cities: Water as Leverage for a Better City examined the future survival of cities, particularly against extreme storms and sea level rise due to climate change. Bouw presented the unknowns of the changing climate and answered how humankind can adapt to this period of drastic change. Bouw explained that in his home country of the Netherlands— a country that is defined by its relationship to water— there was a period of time where the approach to this relationship was strictly to protect the city against water. This strategy included a series of costly dams and caused ecological devastation. Bouw saw the lesson in this and instead began to ask, what if we design and engineer structures that work with the water instead of against it? He called for designers to learn and invent different ways of building with nature. This concept of working with the natural force of water influenced BIG U, a collaborative project with One Architecture (Bouw’s firm), BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), and others. This project incorporates ten continuous miles of infrastructure that builds the coastal resilience of Lower Manhattan against rising sea levels and climate events while also connecting numerous diverse neighborhoods. The BIG U was designed in response to an initiative of the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force and HUD, known as Rebuild by Design. The design prioritizes the city’s connection with the water, creates vibrant spaces for recreation, provides nature-based solutions for stormwater, and utilizes urban water storage. To see more about this project, check out this video. If you want to hear the full lecture given by Matthijs at the KC Public Library last week, you can listen here.

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On Friday, we had the opportunity to hear Matthijs’ perspective and advice on our current project, Prospect Avenue Nodal Study, during a studio visit. He challenged us to think of flaws and employ them to ‘create ingredients for successful development’ as well as engage with the community— building their story and the story for our concept.

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We were happy to have the opportunity to host Matthijs Bouw and attend his engaging lecture as well as receive attentive feedback on our project. We hope he enjoyed his visit to KC and his first experience of Arthur Bryants BBQ (he ordered the burnt end sandwich, by the way).