KCDC wins 2016 AIA KC Design Excellence Award!

We are thrilled to announce that we have received the 2016 AIA KC Design Excellence Concept Category Merit Award for last year's Downtown Kansas City Recycling System Vision Study! We are honored to receive this award for the second year in a row; it is certainly humbling to be acknowledged alongside the extremely talented and inspiring KC designers who also took awards home to their firms, and we would like to take this moment to congratulate them all for a job well done!

Check out our award submission and a video with jury comments here

Schematic Yet Democratic

Check out our aerial video of the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood

The ripping of trace paper, the wild strokes of pens, and the bing of mental light bulbs are all sounds that are common at the Kansas City Design Center lately. For the past month, students have been further investigating the existing situations and the design possibilities for the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood in Northeast Kansas City. 

The students have met up with the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association and other stakeholders to finalize their overall concept for the neighborhood. To do this, they identified six main goals that they want to achieve that would improve the neighborhood. 

students asked for stakeholder feedback by actually marking their comments on maps

In order to get a better grasp of the scope of their vision plan, KCDC students identified specific areas in the neighborhood that have the most issues and therefore the most potential. Before they can get down to the nitty-gritty of architecture design, they must first figure out their urban strategies. 

To identify our urban strategies, we listed the problems and solutions that could solve the social, cultural, or physiographic issues of the neighborhood through architecture.
— Kylie Schwaller


This is just a small fraction of the numerous facets they're studying, all in order to give themselves constraints to start their schematic designing within. After conjuring up iterations of schematic designs for their chosen sites, the KCDC students will host another review with the Scarritt Renaissance stakeholders. Sparking a dialogue with the neighborhood will give the students valuable feedback to refine their design propositions. 

Among other happenings at the Kansas City Design Center include a public lecture by Tom Campanella. Titled "American Curves: Nature, Race, and the Origins of the Modern Highway," Campanella spoke about his research and findings on an incredibly influential man, Madison Grant, a leader in the conservation of nature whose efforts to conserve park space created the first parkway, which was the earliest concept of a highway that we know of today.  

Tom Campanella speaking of "American Curves: Nature, Race, and the Origins of the Modern Highway"

Look forward to hearing more on the students' work after their stakeholder meeting with the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association, as well as more information as they start to delve into their newest project: Creative Placemaking in the West Bottoms. 

New Students and a New Vision for Scarritt Renaissance

Overview of the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood and Kessler Park.

Overview of the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood and Kessler Park.

The fall semester is full of possibilities as a new set of students are settling into the KCDC studio. This time, nine architecture students and one landscape student are joining forces to develop a revitalization plan for the historic Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood

Scarritt Renaissance is home to the famous Kessler Park and Cliff Drive, which offer amazing panoramic views to the East Bottoms and ample green space for soccer, disc golf, and other activities. Among the greenery is the Concourse and Colonnade, a popular meeting ground for the neighborhood's families. Children enjoy running through the fountain or using the playground while their parents socialize. 

However, it's not all fun and games in the neighborhood. Many residents have concerns about the growing number of vacancies, crime, and homes in disrepair. The KCDC students are researching the neighborhood and developing a revitalization plan by working closely with residents, the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood Association, the Kansas City Planning Department, and other organizations.  

To finish up the month of August, the KCDC students presented their preliminary findings on the neighborhood at the Kansas City Museum. They will take the feedback from the neighborhood association and continue to identify local assets and areas in need of improvement. 

Kylie Schwaller and Travis Snell present various maps and diagrams to explain the studio's data and discoveries about the Scarritt Renaissance neighborhood. 

Expect a great project from these eager and fresh students! To keep updated on their progress follow the Kansas City Design Center here, on Facebook, and on Instagram. 

KCDC Studio at the Kansas City Museum.
Left to Right: Jessica Carson, Courtney Minter, Travis Snell, Taylor Allen, Drew Lindsey, Connor Privett, Isaiah Naives, Julia Guerra, Eric Janes, Kylie Schwaller, Kevin Madera, Hannah Hackman, and Professor Vladimir Krstic.  

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!