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Downtown Campus for the Arts

Design Concept


UMKC has long been a staple within the diverse and ever-expanding Kansas City cultural and arts scenes. The school features renowned programs in music, dance, theater and visual arts and sought a new downtown campus to better serve them. IAA was selected as one of five firms to design a new arts campus which would engage the surrounding community and encourage individuals from all backgrounds to become involved in and support local arts on all levels.

design solution

For this groundbreaking project within the heart of Kansas City's urban core, IAA teamed with international design studio, Snøhetta. The collaborative design process was an exciting one as our two firms joined to holistically understand the project and site - from topography and cultural history to future municipal growth and plans. Given the site's central location amongst iconic cultural and arts institutions like the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, the 18th and Vine Jazz District and the Country Club Plaza, our team dubbed the project "the crossroads kitchen" - a vibrant, interactive and authentic core where ideas come alive, are explored, shared and radiate outward. Our team participated in a number of public forums wherein we were able to more deeply ascertain what students and community members hoped for in this new arts hub. Our designers also hosted an all-day charette where our team was given the opportunity to collaborate directly with artists, dancers, musicians and students in order to conceptualize a campus wherein creative individuals could thrive. Our team pushed itself to assume the user's perspective so that each design element reflected the artist's needs. Details as seemingly minute as a door handle, or as 'everyday' as a lounge, were explored and adapted with artist comfort and growth in mind.