A New Project Begins

It's hard to believe but somehow we're almost one month into the 2018/19 academic year. We're excited to introduce you to the KCDC urban design studio's main project this year: The Prospect Avenue Nodal Study. 

Prospect Avenue is a significant and defining element of Kansas City’s urban structure. The ongoing transit-oriented development initiatives (generated by the City and the planning community), growing investment in public transportation, and community interest in quality of life improvements make Prospect Ave. one of the more dynamically changing parts of Kansas City. With all the potential and anticipated change, there is an escalating need for a comprehensive urban design perspective that looks at the entire length of Prospect Ave. (from Independence Ave. on the North to the 75th St. on the South) and attempts to create an integrated vision for the area. 

To that end, the KCDC is collaborating with the KCMO Planning Department to generate a visioning study for the Prospect Corridor. We will be focused on defining potential urban nodes along Prospect Ave, setting design strategies and investigations for their development that utilize catalytic elements which will encourage urban change and improvement. This process will take place in three phases:

  1. Verification of an operational urban design concept for Prospect Ave

  2. A strategic segmented study and urban visioning design

  3. Focused urban design nodal studies

Current Work

The first phase of the project starts with studying the Prospect Corridor; we compared existing plans that have been previously proposed or applied to the Prospect Corridor and developed an understanding of what the goals and findings from each plan were. These plans helped inform us of the current vision and condition of Prospect Ave. and its surrounding neighborhoods. 

We then began our own investigations, looking at data from four different aspects of the Corridor: physical features, history, demographics, and connectivity.

  • Physical Features: The varied topography of Prospect Ave heavily influences development in the area.

  • History: The Prospect Corridor has a rich history which directly shaped the city of Kansas City as a whole.

  • Demographics: Demographic data helps focus our efforts towards the people currently living in the neighborhoods along the Prospect Corridor.

  • Connectivity: Connectivity analyses show a lack of public transit and accessibility to and from the area.

These investigations give us a better sense of the wants and needs of the area and how we can act and interact with the community in a positive way. 

Site Visit

On September 7th we conducted a site visit, driving up and down the Prospect Corridor. We had several objectives for this visit:

  • Examine the existing condition of the Prospect Corridor

  • Determine central nodes (e.g. centers of activity)

  • Build a better understanding of the Prospect Corridor's unique identity

  • Fact-check the information we have been mapping and analyzing

We also traveled along The Paseo and Troost Ave to observe how differently these streets have developed over the years in relation to Prospect Ave. Both streets seem to be doing a lot better than Prospect Ave, but why? This is a question that we’ll keep in mind as we continue to progress in our yearlong study of the Prospect Corridor. 

Public engagement is an important aspect of our work at the KCDC, and will be actively seeking feedback and input from stakeholders and community members as this project moves along (look for information on our first public meeting coming soon). Are there important parts of the Prospect Corridor, and neighboring communities, that we should consider as we move forward? Please let us know in the comments below. 

KCDC Announces New Affiliated Faculty Program

ICT PopUPPark and The Meadow by KCDC Affiliated Faculty Member Katie Kingery-Page

KCDC is pleased to announce the creation of the KCDC Affiliated Faculty program. KCDC Affiliated Faculty consists of regional university faculty members who are interested in engaging in research and projects specific to the KCDC mission. The purpose of the program is to enhance the KCDC’s mission, outreach, comprehensive teaching and research capacity, and to expand the KCDC's faculty engagement base. We would like to welcome the KCDC Affiliated Faculty who are joining our team and look forward to capitalizing on their expertise and talent in elevating our mission to next level of excellence. 

Art in the Loop Releases 3D Model of Downtown Kansas City in Collaboration with the KCDC


The Art in the Loop Foundation, in partnership with the Kansas City Design Center and the Downtown Council, is pleased to announce the release of an interactive, three-dimensional, model of Downtown Kansas City which features 21 sites identified by the Kansas City Design Center as strategic locations for future enhancement of Art in the Loop public art sites system.

Viewers of the digital model (which is available on the Art in the Loop website as a free web application) are invited to explore the site locations by flying through, zooming in and out of, and clicking on the sites which contain downloadable reference manuals designed to aid future artists in their proposals development.

To access the digital model, visit: http://www.artintheloop.com/digital-model/

About the Art in The Loop Vision Study

In 2015, the Kansas City Design Center (KCDC) was awarded a Challenge America grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to help fund the development of the Art in the Loop Vision Plan. Working with the Art in the Loop Foundation and the Downtown Council, the KCDC developed a strategic system to identify sites for artwork with the goal of improving the connectivity and identity of Downtown Kansas City.

The project included a public input process, inventory of physical assets, a survey of existing artwork, and development of criteria for a site selection process. The process also included the development of a three-dimensional digital model for Downtown Kansas City. During the process, KCDC identified 21 sites; then documented the sites and a created a reference manual for future for artists’ concept development. Three local artists, Julia ColePhil Shafer and Barry Anderson, acted as consultants to not only enrich the dialogue between disciplines but lend their unique expertise to the development of art sites.

The project vision was to enhance the identity of Kansas City’s Downtown core by improving walkability, authenticity, safety, and connectivity by expanding the network of Art in the Loop art sites. By developing a strategic framework of public sites for art, the project emphasizes the Greater Downtown Area Plan goals of walkability, authenticity, safety, and connectivity. These sites will generate opportunities for a variety of artists to create art for downtown’s diverse populations. This leads to a stronger community identity that binds together visitors and citizens alike with a sense of belonging.

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 info@designcenter.org 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.