Making Waves

As another successful academic year at the KCDC comes to an end, we've rounded-up some highlights from the past couple of months.

Better Block
On May 6th, Professor Jason Brody and a team of KCDC students planned and executed a Better Block intervention on a section of 11th Street in the West Bottoms. If you're unfamiliar, Better Block is a nationwide movement that aims to demonstrate how the careful redesign of a street can vastly improve our safety, comfort, and experience. With vegetation, loose seating, and redesigned parking, the KCDC temporarily transformed a neglected area in the West Bottoms into a vibrant streetscape. A major intervention was the inclusion of an ADA ramp that allowed access to the loading docks - a unique and unaddressed issue in the West Bottoms. This intervention was spearheaded by student Kylie Schwaller. The ramp was well-used by pedestrians, especially those with strollers and wheelchairs. 

Gonçalo Byrne, Fran Silvestre, and Maria Masià
In April, three European architects enriched our understanding of the power of architecture. Gonçalo Byrne returned to Kansas City to lecture on his life's work at the Kansas City Downtown Public Library. It was here that Gonçalo was awarded the Kansas State University Victor L. Regnier Distinguished Visiting Chair medal for his exceptional work. Fran Silvestre and Maria Masià (two architects from Valencia, Spain) were welcomed to Kansas City at an intimate reception at AIA Kansas City, ahead of Fran's tenure next year as the 2017/18 Regnier Chair. Maria Masià, who is the office manager at Fran Silvestre Arquitectos, presented select works from their studio. Their architecture is clean, minimal, and deceptively contextual.

This chart shows experiential connections between potential sites. The horizontal lines mean sites connect because they have similar qualities; the diagonal lines mean sites connect because they have different qualities, which can provide a variety of experiences in the West Bottoms. 

String Theory
Back at the KCDC studio, West Bottom Reborn design team artist Miranda Clark suggested that KCDC analyze potential public space sites in the West Bottoms using a method we are calling String Theory. Photographs and artifacts from all twelve of our prospective sites were pinned up on one wall. Using strings and thumbtacks, the sites were connected by their common or differing characteristics - like a detective linking clues to the crime. This allowed us to see how a network of public spaces could arise through visceral, historical, and spatial relationships. 

Hickory Lots proposes a public space that defines a boundary, can accommodate parking if needed, as well as commemorates the recent loss of four mature trees

The design for the I-670 viaduct site gives purpose to the otherwise barren spaces underneath the highway viaducts. this dead space currently acts as a wall between the Historic Core and the Stockyards District. a public space can transform this wall condition into a threshold condition. 

The 12th street alley is a hidden site with a strong sense of enclosure. beautiful views of downtown, the 12th street bridge, and the passing trains are framed by the existing buildings. This proposal aims to provide a public space usable by the many nearby businesses, while capitalizing on these views and intimate enclosure.

The Liberty Courtyard exists in between many historic Brick warehouse buildings with loading docks. These loading docks are no longer servicing the trains. To give new use to this existing infrastructure, we RE-IMAGINED them as raised sidewalks, viewing platforms, and stages. When needed, public space can be configured through the deployment of modular pallets that can form seating, stairs, tables, platforms, and other custom functions. These pallets are readily AVAILABLE from the West Bottoms, and can be stored in and deployed from a donated semi trailer. 

Central avenue viaduct is located in kansas, close to the new location for hickory-union moto. This site is frequently appropriated by a variety of users, including dancers, musicians, racers, and explorers. this design provides the necessary AMENITIES to encourage further appropriation, such as modular seating, stormwater management, and improved lighting. 

Design Speculation for Five Sites
In order to provide preliminary, schematic design ideas for the West Bottoms Reborn project, KCDC students narrowed down the twelve sites to five. These five sites vary in scale, spatial conditions, and problems needing to be addressed; this strategy enabled the KCDC to propose a wide array of solutions for public spaces in the West Bottoms. These initial ideas are going to be reworked and refined by the 2017/18 KCDC studio.

May 9th Public Meeting
The KCDC hosted a public meeting on May 9th to present these five design ideas to the public. Questions, concerns, and lively discussions addressed the students' final schematic designs. The entire semester's work will be compiled into a publication, so stayed tuned for details on the publication release date.

The Open House exhibit is currently on view at the Kansas City Design Center by appointment; please email to a schedule a viewing. 

The KCDC Studio of Spring 2017

2nd Community Charrette

Thank you to everyone who came out last night for the 2nd community charrette of the West Bottoms Vision Study for a System of Public Spaces, and a very special thank you to our generous host The Mulberry Room, who provided an inspiring place for our students to show their work. 

If you didn't make it to our meeting, we still want to here from you!! Click here to fill out our site selection survey.

Rising to the Surface

The infamous Laramie Lake maintains a strong presence the day after a storm. 

There is heated debate brewing at the Kansas City Design Center: Which potential public spaces should we investigate further, and which ones should we move on from? It's a question that demands a lot of research on-site and feedback from experts of the area. 

At the Mulberry Room, students presented their proposed system of connections: a framework that supports the selection of potential public spaces. 

1st Public Meeting
February 23rd was our first public meeting, where we presented our initial analysis of the West Bottoms. We sparked a dialogue with visitors, asking them about their favorite spaces, how often they visited, and what they liked or disliked about the West Bottoms. This feedback helped us see if our previous findings aligned with what users actually experienced. We are applying this data to our selection process of potential public spaces. 

LISC Visit
Back in September, our study was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts for a pilot program that delivers tailored assistance for creative placemaking projects. Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) and PolicyLink are managing this program and will provide knowledge and resources on the creation of a economically, culturally, and physically sustainable community through integration of arts and culture in community development work. Representatives from LISC visited the KCDC the first week of March, and we had the opportunity to take them on a tour of the West Bottoms so they could witness first-hand the character, grit, and frictions across the districts. They gave us some really great feedback, and we're excited to continue to work with them in the future as we delve further into the project. 

Better Block
Dovetailing with the West Bottoms study, KCDC Professor Jason Brody and his students are in the midst of designing this year's Better Block KC intervention in the West Bottoms, along 11th Street within the Historic Core. If you're unfamiliar, the Better Block project is a nationwide movement that seeks to transform streets to show the potential for great, walkable, vibrant neighborhoods. Students are considering the feasibility of sunshading devices, designated parking, stormwater management techniques, and appropriating loading docks as a raised sidewalk and outdoor seating area. This event will occur during West Bottom's Heritage Week, from May 5th to 12th. If you're interested in learning more about this project, or want to know how you can get involved, please contact Professor Jason Brody

At the Better Block meeting, preliminary ideas were presented and critiqued

Next Public Meeting
Currently, the students are traversing all the nooks of the West Bottoms to find the most interesting spaces. Our hearts are captured by the oblique views of weathered brick warehouses, our attention is latched to screaming trains and skimming planes, and our souls are humbled by the cathedral-esque structures of highway viaducts.

We are learning to appreciate the West Bottoms as so many already do. Please join us for our second public meeting and let us know why you appreciate these areas too. We will present our analysis of various potential public spaces that we believe have qualities worth preserving and enhancing. We ask for your stories, concerns, and proposals for these sites.*

This community charrette will run from 5:30pm-7pm on Thursday, March 16th, at the beautiful Mulberry Room, located at 1321 W 13th Street, KCMO 64102. We hope to see you there!

*For those unable to attend the public meeting, please fill out our site selection survey online

Delving into the Bottoms

Every time I visit the West Bottoms I am surprised by another nook that I didn’t notice before or another juxtaposition that you can only see from standing in a particular location. It’s these discoveries that make the West Bottoms such an interesting place.
— Kevin Madera, KCDC Student

After weeks of general analysis of the West Bottoms, the students at the Kansas City Design Center are starting to hone in on prospective sites for their creative placekeeping project. The purpose of this project is to select three potential sites to be designated as public space with an emphasis on integrating public art, in all its forms. The whole design process will be augmented with frequent stakeholder and community feedback, as well as guidance from three consultant artists: Miranda Clark, Carmen Moreno, and Jim Woodfill. 

Regnier Chair and architect Gonçalo Byrne made his first visit to Kansas City in order to aid students in their analysis of the West Bottoms. We returned the favor by showing him some of the highlights of Kansas City, including brunch at Affäre, a brewery tour at Boulevard, and many visits to the West Bottoms. 

With Gonçalo and lead project artist Jim Woodfill's aid, the students developed a framework for which to base the rest of the project off of. This framework includes a system of Gateways, Corridors, and Nodes. Gateways are the entry points into the West Bottoms, which are few and far between due to the seclusion caused by the rivers to the north and west as well as the cliff to the east. The only entry points are through highway infrastructure and a few local road viaducts. Following these entry points are the main corridors that move you through the West Bottoms. These corridors vary in quality, but are the subject of streetscape improvement plans by Phronesis and KEM STUDIO. These corridors are planned to be multi-modal to accommodate cars, trucks, bikes, and pedestrians. Ideally, KCDC's public space will be easily accessible from one of these corridors. Corridors then lead to nodes, which are centers of activity in the West Bottoms. The pedestrian nodes of the Historic Core and the Stockyards District have many artist galleries, shops, restaurants, and bars. Contrasting - but equally prominent - is the industrial node in the northwest portion of the West Bottoms. This area is home to many distributors, garages, and factories. Gateways, Corridors, and Nodes make up a comprehensive system for KCDC's studies to build off of. 

The West Bottoms is simultaneously big and small. In order to make site analysis of the entire area more manageable, the students devised six site typologies. These typologies include alleys, missing teeth, courtyards, under overpasses, islands, and open areas. Each of these types have different spatial qualities and therefore different possibilities for becoming public spaces.

This map shows all the six site typologies within the West Bottoms. 

Recently, the studio gained two more consultant artists. Miranda Clark is a photographer and sculptor who focuses on architectural forms and negative spaces. Carmen Moreno is a sculptor and performance artist who focuses on urban environments and their relationship to native ecosystems. Together with Jim Woodfill, these artists will offer critique and new perspectives throughout the entire project. 

Next, we will evaluate and narrow down our prospective sites. Then we will seek stakeholder and community feedback on our process and site selections. If you have a passion for the West Bottoms, please join us for this very important public meeting in order to let your voice be heard. Our site selection meeting will occur at the back room of Rockstar Burgers at 5:30pm on Thursday, February 23rd. The address of Rockstar Burgers is 1611 Genessee St, Kansas City, MO 64102. 

Obrigado Gonçalo

December in Portugal was more akin to autumn in America. A hoodie was enough to keep us warm in between the cool shadows of buildings and the warm sunlight that peaks between. The streets and plazas were paved with an array of black and white cobblestone patterns. Colorfully tiled medium-height buildings enclosed these streets, containing a myriad of shops at the ground floor with residents just above. 

The purpose of our trip was twofold: to see the work of Portuguese Architect Gonçalo Byrne and to study public space in Portugal. The KCDC studio's home base was Lisbon, but we also explored the cities of Coimbra, Porto, and Cascais

Despite having to wear a boot for his still-recovering foot injury, Vladimir had no problem keeping up with the studio. He rode around Portugal's streets with the help of his red folding bike. The two were inseparable. 

Gonçalo Byrne is an architect, but he is always carefully conscious of the context of the urban environment as well as being attentive to the smallest details of every design. His projects range from preservation of centuries old buildings to new residences. We enjoyed listening to him speak of Portugal's history and character as well as the ideas behind each of his designs. 

On our first evening in Portugal Gonçalo explained the growth and history of the city of Lisbon, especially regarding the masterplanned portion of Lisbon that was created after a major earthquake. The importance of the masterplan includes the creation of grand public spaces and a rectilinear street grid. On our first full day in Lisbon, he showed the KCDC studio the São Jorge Castle and the World Expo center of 1998. 

The next day we visited Coimbra to see Gonçalo's Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro, a museum built on top and around the ruins of a Roman Cryptoporticus. We saw the Casa de Escrita and grabbed a refreshment at Casa das Caldeiras. On our fourth day abroad we explored Porto and saw the Casa da Musica by OMA and the Serralves Museum of Contemporary art by Alvaro Siza. 

Back in Lisbon, we walked along the waterfront and saw the EDP Headquarters by Aires Mateus and then it was a short train ride to Museu de Arte, Arquitetura e Tecnologia. We took the metro further to Cascais to see Gonçalo's Estoril Sol Residence, an apartment building and public park that replaced a blocky hotel. It consists of three angled buildings connected by a bridge. The apartments overlook the coast of the Atlantic as well as the gardens below. After, we visited the Casa das Histórias Paula Rego by Eduardo Souto de Moura and then walked over to the Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum by Aires Mateus. Running to beat the incoming rain, we arrived at our final stop in this town: Pousada de Cascais, a former barracks converted into a luxury hotel, restaurant, and spa. 

The next day was our last full day in Lisbon. We took the subway to what KCDC agrees was the most memorable of Gonçalo's work: Teatro Thalia. Originally built in 1825, the stone theatre suffered a fire and stood vacant for over 150 years until it was preserved and added on to become a multi-purpose space. The last building was the Banco de Portugal, which was a historic building that was renovated by Gonçalo to include a museum of money. 

Gonçalo Byrne is the 2016-2017 K-State's Victor L. Regnier Distinguished Visiting Chair. During his time as Regnier Chair, Gonçalo will be visiting the KCDC studio throughout the following semester to contribute his knowledge and critique to our upcoming West Bottoms Project. We are extremely thankful to the Regnier family for this opportunity to visit Gonçalo and study Portugal. Experiencing the successes and shortcomings of public spaces in Portugal will better prepare us for designing public art and public spaces in Kansas City's West Bottoms. Look forward to more on the West Bottoms as we jump into our next project on Creative Placekeeping.