Photo: John Prowell Photography and Tim Hursley

“This project took the aesthetic, the design, and the architectural opportunities to create an evocative design.”

Dennis Andrejko


Harry H. Edwards Industry Advancement Award

Best Theatre

Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

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The goal for the new performing arts center in Kansas City, Mo., was to create “the perfect instrument,” as the designers explained it. That meant providing amazing acoustics, great sightlines, and the ability to operate as a well-oiled machine. It also meant designing a structure that inspired visitors and gave them a sense of the ceremony inherent in attending a performance.

The project team achieved all of these goals and more with the help of architectural precast concrete panels as the building’s distinctive cladding. Their efforts resulted in the building winning the award for Best Theater as well as receiving the Harry H. Edwards Industry Advancement Award for the distinctive style of the curving precast concrete panels.

“This project took the aesthetic, the design, and the architectural opportunities to create an evocative design that spoke the language of the performing arts,” says Dennis Andrejko, one of the special awards judges. “Precast, because of its moldability, was an appropriate material choice. It gave them the flexibility to explore that design opportunity in a technological way.”

The building features two standalone performance halls within a dramatic, overarching shell consisting of a glass roof and glass walls that provide sweeping views of the city. The geometry and architectural design of the project were based on arcs, radii, and cones on both horizontal and vertical planes. There are few 90-degree angles.

Approximately 89,000 ft2 (8,300 m2) of architectural precast concrete panels, in both insulated and solid versions, were cast as complex panels with little repetition. Most of the walls are straight but not parallel to one another. Walls run along a grid line that forms the radius of an arc.

An irregular, elliptical precast concrete entry was designed on the south side to match the floor plate. The panels were cast using a single form by manipulating the work point while rotating the form, using specific portions of the form to cast each individual component. The curved panels were shipped to the jobsite on specially made racks to avoid damage.

Building information modeling (BIM) was used to eliminate much of the trial and error that otherwise would have been necessary in designing the panels. The BIM model served as the primary communication tool between the design architect (in another city), the local design team, and all subcontractors.

“The jury was excited by the use of collaboration between the designers and builders,” says Dave Craddock, a member of the buildings awards jury. “The high level of cooperation allowed for a functional and fluent use of materials. This building’s use of curved panels was very visually pleasing. You would like to say at the end of the day this is one that it will go down in the years to come as a performance art center that really performs.”

Location: Kansas City, Mo.
Owner: The Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, Mo.
Architect: Safdie Architects, Somerville, Mass.,, with BNIM Architects, Kansas City, Kan.,
Engineer: Arup, New York, N.Y., with Structural Engineering Associates, Kansas City, Mo.
Contractor: JE Dunn Construction Co., Kansas City, Mo.
Precaster: Enterprise Precast Concrete Inc., Omaha, Neb.,
Precast specialty engineer: Rupprecht Engineering, Omaha, Neb.
Project size: 356,000 ft2 (33,000 m2)
Project cost: $304 million