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).

Snow Days = Work Days at KCDC

Despite the many snow days that everyone in the KC area has been experiencing, here at the KCDC (as Vladimir would say), ‘The project must continue’. We are now about a month and a half into the semester and as we move into week 7 we are gearing up for some exciting events!

Recently we have had a number of community engagement opportunities. We had our first experience inviting Community Leaders from the Prospect Avenue area to the KCDC to check out our project . The gallery style event allowed us to really get a sense of what those that live and work along Prospect Avenue see for the future of this prominent corridor. Many of them were a wealth of knowledge about what was needed, what had worked in the past, and the challenges that we may face as we look towards the future. We collected as much information and critique as we could from the community members and now begin to close the door on the conceptual stage of the design process.

public review

We also had our first major design review last week and presented the conceptual stage of the project. We welcomed six design professionals to provide feedback on the project thus far. All four nodal groups (our two most southern groups— Prospect Hospital and Prospect South— have joined forces for a comprehensive approach to their zones) presented their overall concepts as well as preliminary design strategies for their respective nodes. You can see some of the presentation action below.

Professional reviews

Looking forward:
As we continue working through the snow days and sub zero temps, we have even more exciting things coming up. Tonight the KCDC has partnered with K-State and the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art to co-host a lecture with Fuensanta Nieto at 6:00pm. We also are very excited for our first off site community meeting that is happening tomorrow night (March 6th) at the East Patrol Police Station located at 2640 Prospect Ave. We are hoping to meet even more community members from the Prospect Ave area and work with them as we head into the design development stage of the project.

Meet our new team members!

We’re excited to introduce three new fourth-year students from K-State joining us on our Prospect Nodal Study! Meet Tayvia Navy, Jason Ingram, and Caitlin Seal:



Tayvia comes to the KCDC with a goal to pursue a career path in commercial architecture. She is excited by how engaged the KCDC is with the community of architects, planners, and designers in Kansas City and hopes to become more connected with the community. When she isn’t in studio, you can find her on a basketball court. She is currently joining the Prospect South team. Welcome, Tayvia!



Jason joins our team excited by the change of pace from a traditional learning environment and intrigued by the unique learning experience of the KCDC . He looks forward to working on a wide range of architecture types in both the residential and commercial sectors. When he’s not putting his energy into designing, you can find him playing soccer. He has become part of the group taking a closer look at Brush Creek. Happy to have you, Jason!



Caitlin joined the KCDC team with a desire to explore design in the urban environment and a love for Kansas City. Her passion is for small-scale residential and commercial architecture. When she isn’t focusing on her studio designs, she relaxes by sketching and drawing people. Caitlin has joined the team that is looking at Prospect Ave between 25th and 39th Streets. Welcome to the KCDC, Caitlin!

We are looking forward to getting to know our new studio mates throughout the semester as we work with them on this exciting project!

Prospect Avenue Nodal Study: Selecting Urban Nodes

After returning from holiday break, the studio split into groups and began defining urban nodes to be investigated. By looking at the key issues and existing conditions of each area, we are excited to share the selected nodes that we’ll be investigating for the remainder of the semester.

The first is an area that we’ve termed Prospect North which runs from Independence Ave to 12th Street and Truman Rd. You can see in the diagram below that we are focusing on four strategies in this area with a goal to use what's already available in addition to increasing density in a way that will define Prospect Avenue’s distinct character as a strong urban element.

Prospect North

The second node is the Prospect Corridor from 31st Street, Linwood Blvd. to 39th Street. In this section, there are three major points of East-West connections that we have the opportunity to activate. Check out the image below for details— our goal in this area is make this corridor more consistent, both visually and physically, in order to strengthen existing character in the area. This section would become a major bridge between the more industrial area of Prospect North and Brush Creek.

Prospect corridor

Next, we have Brush Creek. This area runs from 45th Street to 51st Street and is focused on the north/south gateways (especially addressing the huge barrier of Highway 71) and the waterfront. This area has a ton of potential with the opportunity to create a functional green space, redesigning the bridge, and taking care of all those flooding problems due to stormwater run off. In the images below you can see how these we hope to address these issues by reclaiming urban spaces, addressing the space around the bridge, and creating strong gateways.

Brush Creek

Directly south of Brush Creek we have the Prospect Hospital Area which runs from 51st Street to Meyer Blvd. In the image below you’ll see that this area shifts from a residential/small business corridor to the Research Medical Center complex very quickly with causes a big disconnect. This area also has a ton of un-featured views to the downtown area, the Plaza, the Stadiums, Waldo Water Tower, Starlight Theater, East Bottoms and the Cerner Campus. The goal here is to encourage design that orients development to Prospect Ave or 63rd Street and creates a consistent street edge and facade system. Plus, who wouldn’t want to take advantage of those amazing views!

Prospect Hospital

Our last (and southern most) node is Prospect South from Meyer Boulevard to 75th Street. This area runs parallel, right next to Highway 71— this results in a huge infrastructural barrier that causes a disconnect between the east and west sides of Prospect. In the diagrams below you will see that we utilize a permeable green space buffer on the east side of Prospect and a well defined street edge on the west as a result of infill density. This helps restore a well defined character and gets rid of un-needed parking lots and buildings.

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As we continue developing ideas and meeting with our advisory council, watch our for our public meeting dates where we will engage with the communities and leaders that live and work in these areas!