The End of the Semester

It's been a crazy semester at KCDC and just as quickly as it started, it came to an end. We ended with an incredible Open House and a professional Review showcasing both the Art in the Loop and Recycling Vision Study. Thank you very much to everyone that came out for both of those events!

The task for Art in the Loop was to design a system for selecting future art sites and it's been an exciting process. After many meetings with the artists and the advisory group, we have selected 23 sites dispersed all around the downtown loop that will increase the impact of Art in the Loop and bring art to spaces we might not have thought of before. Each site was documented extensively so that the curators and the artists have information that can determine the possibilities for the site and make art that fits perfectly into its site.

The Recycling Vision study concluded with 4 site-specific designs that address various goals we'd determined last semester in the Vision Plan. We looked at a cluster, which focuses on increasing efficiency for both the hauler and the users, an organic node which takes on organic waste as a large portion of the waste stream, a showcase node, which is focused on awareness, and the links which are about increasing access and also education and awareness. It also culminated in some pretty cool models including one with a working hand crank from the clusters group!

Both of these projects have taught us all a lot about Urban Design and what that entails in Kansas City. Art in the Loop is not a project type that we’ve encountered before. However, by using design thinking and with the help of the artists, we were able to think about public art differently in order to better serve Downtown Kansas City. For recycling, we’ve all left with an increased knowledge of the recycling process and why it is so important to recycle. Hopefully, we’ve changed some of our audience’s minds as well when thinking about recycling and its potential to create a more livable public realm in Kansas City!

Showcase Node at Main and Truman

Showcase Node at Main and Truman

Organic Node at 12th and Holmes

Organic Node at 12th and Holmes

Even though both projects are now complete, the work is not over yet! We’ll be working on the final studio publication as well as doing presentations to various stakeholders in Kansas City that have an interest in the project. Also, if you didn’t have time to make it to Open House, the work is still on display in our gallery!

A Tale of Two Projects

A lot has been happening this semester at KCDC. The Recycling Vision Study is in the Schematic Design stage as we get ready for our final professional reviews before the completion of the project. The Art in the Loop Vision Plan is coming to a wrap as we compile the proposed selection of sites. There has also been an incredible lecture series hosted by KCDC with a variety of inspirational and thought-provoking speakers. The speakers this semester include Lola Sheppard of Lateral Office based in Toronto, Matt Wetli, a planner  at Development Strategies based in St Louis , and Jay Siebenmorgen a design principal at NBBJ in New York. All of these lectures have been incredibly informative as each of these speakers shared their views on how design and design thinking can enrich the environment and cities around us.

On the Recycling front, we selected a few sites for links, clusters and nodes to design in detail in order to demonstrate how the system could work cohesively. These sites then become examples for how certain sites could be designed. The links group has analyzed in detail a section of the system in order to determine what types of interventions are appropriate based on the types of movement through the public right of way. They have analyzed  conditions such as the people inhabiting the sites, points of interest of activity within the system, the width of the right of way, and street edge conditions. The proposal for these sites includes a modular kit of parts that is designed specifically for those sites based on the activities that should occur there. Some of the pieces include seating, waste bins, bike racks and informational exhibits that can be placed in different parts of the city along those pre-established links.

The cluster strategy is a means of optimizing efficiency for recycling pick up for the haulers by clustering waste for buildings located near each other. This allows for efficiency in pickup from the haulers (less pick-ups per block) as well as for the business owners because they can negotiate for lower rates from the haulers due to the larger waste capacity of the combined buildings. The ideas for the cluster that has been selected is centered on using the waste receptacles as space defining objects in order to enhance the space they encompass rather than detract from it. In order to make these bins attractive, technology as well as passive systems are used to increase ventilation in the bins as well as increase security in order to limit who can access these bins.

The nodes are about creating points of activity that have different purposes such as collection, showcasing and they employ multiple strategies to bring recycling awareness and education to the public. The nodes we have chosen for further site design are the organic and showcase nodes. The purpose is to show two completely different nodes and highlight how they can enrich the public realm through the use of different strategies. The organic node is focusing on the collection of public as well as private multi-family organic waste in order to feed a nursery for the city’s street trees. They are also incentivizing the collection of organic materials from the public by the implementation of a reward system for the collection of these materials. This focuses on the creation of new recycling infrastructure as well as educating the public on a practice that is a bit of a mystery to the general public. The showcase node on the other hand is about creating a structure that allows for the exhibition of public art made from recycled materials. This activates the public realm through rotating pieces that are educational as well as exciting and showcase the potential of these materials. Comprehensively, these designs are a way of showing how a system of sites can enhance recycling in the public realm through a multitude of strategies known to increase recycling rates.

The Art in the Loop Vision Plan is nearing completion as we begin to compile the documentation for the sites that we selected as well as the process used to determine the system of art sites. Through meeting with our Advisory Council as well as with local artists, we are This system aims to increase the impact of art in the downtown loop as well as the range of types of art in order to create a more vibrant public realm. Some of the strategies for increasing these impact areas include focusing on different populations in order to create art that is not located only in highly trafficked areas but also in some of the residential concentrations and areas around the fringe of the loop to create art “beacons”. This system becomes a framework for a variety of art that can appeal to a variety of communities within the downtown loop.

All of these ideas and designs will be on display for our open house in May as we finalize the projects and get them ready for public display! So keep an eye out for information about Open House!

p.s. We got a new 3D printer. Get ready to see some great models at our next public meeting!

Digging into the Details

We’ve had a pretty busy week as we got into both the Art in the Loop project and the Recycling project. Art in the Loop is a foundation within the Downtown Council that works on bringing into the public realm in the Downtown Loop. So, KCDC’s role is in creating a strategic masterplan for the placement of art in the Loop. This week, we had our first meeting with the advisory council where we introduced the project and talked about our plans for the study then asked for feedback. We started with a base inventory of parks and plazas, vacant spaces, and surface parking lots. However, as we spoke with some of the advisory council, we got some interesting perspectives on how we should think about public art. For example, one member asked us to think about the perspective of a resident or worker who is on the 27th floor of a building looking down at a piece of art versus someone who walks past it on their way to work everyday. Due to the very public nature of this art, every angle that the art can be seen from is really important in how we think about the placement of the art throughout the city. I’m sure we’ll have a lot more fruitful discussions, just like this past one, with the advisory group as we advance in the project.

A part of our work on Art in the Loop is the ability to work with local artists in order to get input on how we can go about selecting these sites as future Art in the Loop sites. As designers and planners it’s been extremely helpful in how we think about art and some of the constraints and opportunities that public art allows that we would not be privy to otherwise. So, our first meeting with the artists was critical in how we decide to move forward with the selection of sites and all their input was extremely helpful. So we're very grateful for that opportunity.

On the recycling side, we’ve been working towards picking the sites that we will design in order to demonstrate the overall system. The process includes scaling in further so we can look at some of the sites in greater detail. Some things that become important at a deeper scale include topography, visibility to and from the site, truck access, and the more experiential details as we continue to analyze each site. All this information leads to design decisions that are based on a fully researched on understood site so that we can maximize the potential of each site as recycling centered sites.

Some of us have also been working on acquiring some skills that can hopefully be useful in the design and production of the recycling study. Nathan Howe’s 5th Year studio at K-State is working on the masterplanning of the 2028 Olympics in Vancouver. As part of the masterplan, a number of new structures would be necessary in order to handle the large influx of people and the number of events Olympics hosts. So, HOK Kansas City had a workshop with the students and we were invited to come along, to learn about using Grasshopper to efficiently and quickly design stadiums. Now, unless we discover that there is a need for a stadium dedicated solely to recycling for a recycling festival or something, we probably won’t be designing a stadium for this project. However, the information we learned about was super helpful in thinking about more efficient ways to build 3d models more efficiently as we get into the design phase of the project. So, thank you to the people at HOK who helped us wade through the complex world of Grasshopper and parametric design.

So stick around for more on what we’re up to this semester. It’s a bit hectic and our calendars are full but we are definitely up for the challenge and the opportunities that they each present!

A New Semester at KCDC

It’s a new year and KCDC is back and ready to get the ball rolling again on our projects. We had a very successful Open House and Professional Review in December and we appreciate all the helpful feedback we received. We’ll be reviewing all the notes we got as we get back in the groove of our recycling program this semester.

(More pictures of the event are available on our Facebook page!)

This semester started off with the students participating in the ULI Hines Student Competition. The Competition is an intensive 15-day urban design and development challenge for graduate students. The challenge is to design a comprehensive development for a large-scale site. This year, the site was located in Midtown Atlanta. This year, we had 3 teams competing out of KCDC and 1 team competing out of KU. You can see our work exhibited Thursday Dec, 4th at a reception we’ll be holding in honor of the competition.

We also have a new studio joining us this semester from KU. Shannon Criss’ Dotte Agency studio will be running out of the KCDC studio while they work on a project in Kansas City, Kansas. Along with a new studio, there are three new fourth year students from K-State joining the program. Lindsay Stucki a Landscape Architecture student, Levi Caraway an Architecture student, and David Maynard from the Planning program.

So, stay tuned as we continue with our projects this semester and I hope you’re all excited to see where things go because we definitely are!

National Endowment for the Arts Awards More Than $27.6 Million Across Nation - Includes $10,000 awarded to the Kansas City Design Center

In its first 50 years, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) awarded more than $5 billion in grants to recipients in every state and U.S. jurisdiction, the only arts funder in the nation to do so. Today, the NEA announced awards totaling more than $27.6 million in its first funding round for fiscal year 2016, including a Challenge America award of $10,000 to the Kansas City Design Center.

The Challenge America category supports projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. Challenge America grants are comparatively small investments that have a big impact in their communities. NEA Chairman Jane Chu said, “The arts are part of our everyday lives – no matter who you are or where you live – they have the power to transform individuals, spark economic vibrancy in communities, and transcend the boundaries across diverse sectors of society. Supporting projects like the one from the Kansas City Design Center offers more opportunities to engage in the arts every day.”

“We are thrilled with receipt of this award because it speaks to the importance of this project and the relevance of our collaborative efforts to improve the livability of the Greater Downtown Kansas City Area.” - KCDC Director Vladimir Krstic

This award will support the KCDC Art in the Loop Vision Plan, a comprehensive study for the development of Art in the Loop installation sites. The primary goal of the Art in the Loop Foundation is to activate existing and found public spaces in the Downtown Kansas City Loop through physical, artistic, and programmatic insertions that engage people and improve the walkability, authenticity, safety, connectivity and uniqueness of the area. These programs/projects may be temporary or permanent and can be implemented in a multi-phased approach in a manner to best expedite their implementation. The purpose of this vision plan will be to assess the viability of all potential sites, develop criteria for their selection, make account of all relevant contextual factors that need to be taken into consideration when making the sites available to artists, and provide a reference for artists’ concept development.

This project will be executed in spring 2016 by the KCDC Urban Design Studio, in collaboration with two competitively selected local artists who will serve as consultants. Art in the Loop has issued a Call for Artists for this project; interested parties should respond by December 15th:

For more information on Art in the Loop, visit